Access to health care across Somalia’s Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) population of 2.6 million is extremely limited due to years of conflict that have destroyed the already fragile health infrastructure of the country.
Somalia has the fourth-largest population of IDPs in the world. Almost three decades of conflict, recurrent and more intense climate shocks such as droughts and floods, as well as the worst locust invasion in 25 years, have forced many individuals to flee their towns and settle in displacement sites in search of safety and better access to basic services.
To remedy the health situation, a new maternal and child health care clinic for internally displaced expectant and nursing mothers and children has been opened in Doolow, Somalia, by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in partnership with the Ministry of Health.
The new health centre, funded by the government of Japan, was set up to assist with free health care over 5,800 families living in Kabasa, one of the most impoverished communities of IDPs in the country.
The clinic, coordinated by IOM and implemented by the local partner Human Development Concern, will provide multiple services.
This includes antenatal care, delivery and postnatal care, outpatient consultations, emergency services and immunisation for childhood diseases, such as tuberculosis, diphtheria, tetanus, hepatitis and polio –a disease eradicated in many parts of the world but still a problem in Somalia–. Child nutrition and treating malnutrition services will also be offered.
Prior to the opening of the clinic, many expectant mothers in Doolow had a higher risk of death because of antenatal and postnatal complications, and particularly during childbirth and stillbirths.
This was due to a lack of access to maternity services caused in part by security-related restrictions of movement between IDP camps, which left many expectant mothers unable to reach the nearest maternity unit –located four kilometres away–, to which they often had to walk.
As a result, many of them had to rely on unskilled traditional birth attendants.
Hawa, a mother of five, is one of the women who will benefit from the new clinic: “Today, people in Kabasa are enthusiastic, and a sigh of relief is observed as services are available day and night and mothers will be attended to by skilled midwives”, she said.
This health facility will be the first to provide delivery services in the Kabasa IDP site in over 10 years. It replaces an old health post that used to treat only emergency cases.
IOM’s Health Officer in Doolow, Fatuma Aden, says “now we have five permanent rooms, well ventilated with 24/7 running water and electricity to attend patients, qualified midwives and complete delivery equipment to increase the quality of services received by mothers and their new-borns.”
IOM is supporting 39 other similar health facilities across Somalia. This support is crucial to the health and livelihoods of over 361,165 people.
Moreover, the poor sanitation and hygiene conditions of the often overcrowded IDP sites and the impact that COVID-19 is having on livelihood opportunities is putting at risk the well-being of many displaced persons.
IOM’s Health Programme Manager, Kerry Kyaa, says the UN migration agency is committed to strengthening and promoting better quality and inclusive health systems that benefit migrants and the communities in which they live.
‘’Migrants contribute actively to the development of society and ensuring their access to health services not only protects public health and human rights, but it also prevents long-term health and social costs, and contributes to social and economic development”, he said.
IOM Somalia is supporting the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) to bring health care services closer to migrants, displaced families, and communities in hard-to-reach areas while improving their living conditions to minimise preventable diseases and death.
Since the beginning of the year, IOM has provided 361,165 health consultations and reached 378,482 individuals with health education and promotion activities at IOM supported health clinics and through mobile health teams.