Inspirational Story - A Call to Serve


A healthcare system fit for a purpose

It is common knowledge that Somalia has undergone a devastating and seemingly elongated civil war. As a result, Somalia’s lack of infrastructure and sound professionalism reflects the many years of turmoil and destruction that the internal conflict has caused, and the debilitating impact it has left on Somalia and its people.

Evidence suggests that things are changing rapidly. As the nation’s lost standing is being restored by the current government as well as investors ranging from Turkey to China, normality ensues. Schools are being built, hospitals are receiving funding and more and more people throughout Western society are adopting the now widespread ideology that the country is working hard to redeem itself, to garner the prestige and spirit it once possessed pre-civil war. And with the changing times, come the changes in mentality.

The diaspora is returning, promoting healthcare, education and post-conflict reconstruction in its wake. While Somalia is slowly but surely being enriched with financial industry workers and professors boasting higher order degrees to assist in the education sector, what Somalia is still undeniably lacking is a reliable healthcare system. The amount of nurses and general practitioners returning from the 1.5 million Somalis living overseas does not make up for the fact that for a simple joint replacement, a Somali national has to travel all the way to Malaysia-one of the few countries that enable Somali patients to travel to without the need for a visa. If they cannot find a way to pay the expenses of such a costly trip, it is their bad luck.

My mother-in-law, Hadiya, has suffered from various joint problems for many years, particularly in her knees and shoulders. Somalia lacks the facilities and qualified orthopaedic surgeons to perform the task of replacing her suffering joints. An operation I perform to such an extent that it is seemingly every day, she has to travel for many days and has to go through the trouble of customs, visas and immigration to undergo. The Malaysian doctor, who operated on my mother-in-law, my friend, even expressed his concerns, asking why she couldn’t be treated in a hospital in Somalia. He could not comprehend the reason as to why my mother-in-law had to travel all this way for an operation deemed so simple, so easy to perform for us orthopaedic surgeons.

A Somali doctor not in Somalia

This question has haunted me ever since. How can I sleep knowing my people are in dire need of my help? How can I be treating Australian patients, with all their state of the art facilities and countless doctors, and leave my people in the dark? There is a growing sense of nostalgia, I believe, among the many doctors of Somali origin residing outside of their nation, in countries such as America, Canada, England and Australia.

The situation is simple. Doctors like myself should not be spending our time and resources on treating people who have up to date facilities and thousands of other doctors who could perform the task in a split second in our absence. We should be treating those stifled by circumstances beyond their dominion, who have to travel far and wide to simply get a joint replacement. It is alarming, really, to reflect on the fact that someone suffering just as my mother-in-law, who does not have connections and members of the diaspora to send remittances, will have to endure their pain and not have anything done about it – simply due to the lack of facilities and doctors in Somalia.

What is so concerning is the fact that there are many, many Somalis who are more than qualified in these types of operations. I have a sub-speciality in joint-knee replacements that I obtained during a postgraduate study in South Africa and Canada. The fact of the matter is that we are scattered all over the world, in every corner of the earth except where we are needed most.

In light of this I have contacted Somali doctors, particularly those who are working in Western Europe and North America, and expressed my concerns of the issue at hand. It was well agreed upon that the time has come for us to return home and to help our people.

An issue of this importance, however, is not resolved simply by a united stance, a sense of agreement and the gathering of a following who have similar intentions. An even wider issue is the fact that although we doctors are willing to return, Somalia irrefutably lacks the facilities with which we are to perform these simple surgeries.

A call to serve

Put bluntly, we need investment. We need people to put money together to build establishments and machinery to allow Somalis to receive the help that they need and deserve.

We need to establish a public-private partnership between investors and donors, through which facilities can be built. With these facilities, doctors like me can stop training Australian registrars and start training Somali medical school graduates in the art of surgery.

With these facilities comes freedom and equal opportunity. With investment, care and whole-hearted effort, Somalia will be freed from its restraints in its health care system. Our people deserve its well-qualified diaspora to return to the nation to which they owe their education and success, to put back their efforts in a country so dire in its need.

 By: Dr Aidarus Farah - Orthopedic Surgeon


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