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Last Updated: Thursday, 26 August, 2004, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Somali hospital finds its feet
By Celeste Hicks
BBC, Mogadishu

Mona
Seven-month old orphan Mona is being treated for possible TB
Staff at Mogadishu's newest maternity hospital are already saying the recent re-opening of the building after more than 13 years has been a huge success.

The Banadir Maternity hospital was closed because of heavy fighting and looting during Somalia's civil war.

In March 2003, a group of women activists decided this was unacceptable, leaving expectant mothers and babies in the north of the city with completely inadequate medical care.

Women of the Peace Frontier (WFP) say over 700 women have died unnecessarily because of the lack of a maternity hospital.

Until last year, fighting continued around the hospital between rival militias and so the women decided to take matters into their own hands, says Chairperson Madina Mohammed Eldi.

"These women were thinking about what they could do - Mogadishu was a real disaster at the time. So they just went up to the warlords, the leaders at the time, and asked them to stop what they were doing," she says.

In actual fact the women found that the local militia had been looking after the hospital very well.

Trustees

One small band of men led by Mohammed Hassan Farah had been stationed non-stop in the hospital for 14 years.

Fadumo Ahmed Ali (r) has somewhere to treat her three-year-old son for cholera.

Their job had been solely to beat back the raiders and the looters, who were all anxious to get their hands on a piece of the hated former government's property.

The building itself, which was built in 1977 by the Chinese in a traditional Soviet layout, escaped remarkably unscathed from the violence.

The men managed to hang on to most of the beds, and even kept the original Italian generators working, by carrying out maintenance on them every day.

"We lost many men during those encounters, many of them died and some were injured, and some even became blind. But still I believed that I had to defend the hospital - we thought it belonged to the women and children," says Mohammed Farah.

So with the building more or less intact and tacit permission from the warlords to proceed, members of WPF began writing to local businessmen and Somalis in the Diaspora asking them to send donations.

Help

They've already raised over $20,000 in this way, which has been used to repair the beds and buy basic medicine for babies such as seven-month old Mona.

Hospital beds
Money has been raised for equipment
Mona's mother died during labour, and the round wounds on the baby girl's body came from traditional healers burning her with hot sticks to release evil spirits.

Volunteer doctors at Banadir now think she has TB and are treating her with medicine donated from the World Health Organization.

In just the first week at the hospital, the doctors treated 450 babies and 350 women.

Each patient is given a free consultation and a free bed if they need it, but the Director of Banadir Hospital Dr Abdillahi Hashi Qerir says: "We need a big hand from the international donors and anyone who can help, for things like the operation room, the theatre supplies, instruments and so on."

And the women's vision doesn't stop there. Since their inception just 18 months ago, the WFP have also opened nine schools for young boys wanting a future away from the militia, and persuaded many warlords to clear road blocks from across Mogadishu, opening up the city's roads again for public use.

As for Mohammed Farah, does he believe his 14 year battle was worth it?

"At times I felt like giving up, but I believed I had to protect the hospital or die. In life and the hereafter I'm hoping to get a reward from God and from my people."




SEE ALSO:
Joy at Somali hospital reopening
16 Jul 04  |  Africa
Somalis march over shut hospital
19 May 04  |  Africa
Militiamen shut Somalia hospital
17 May 04  |  Africa


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