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Doctors qualify in Somali capital

By Mohamed Olad Hassan
BBC News, Mogadishu

Doctors graduate in Mogadishu
The doctors vowed to stay in Somalia and use their much-needed skills

Student doctors have graduated from a medical school in the Somali capital of Mogadishu - for the first time in nearly two decades.

The ceremony for 12 men and eight women was held inside a barricaded hotel, guarded by police, in the capital.

The new doctors come at a time when Somalis in the conflict-wracked country desperately need medical care.

The Horn of Africa nation has been engulfed by chaos since President Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.

Civilians often bear the brunt of the bullet-pocked capital's battles between Islamist forces and government soldiers, backed by Ethiopian troops.

The students had to dodge firefights on their way to university in one of the most violent cities in the world.

The graduation of these students shows students can still learn despite violence and anarchy
Mohamed Malim Muse
Benadir University

With the men wearing suits and ties and the women in Muslim headscarves, the graduates smiled for a portrait and hoisted their diplomas in the air at the Shamo Hotel.

They said they would not leave the country because their profession was in high demand in Somalia - and some of them have already joined hospitals in Mogadishu.

They graduated after a six-year programme that is recognised only in Somalia, not overseas.

'Fruit of resilience'

"This is a really good moment of my life. I want to work and help my people with this new talent and I'm not leaving," said 20-year-old Na'ima Abdulkadir Mohamed.

New fleet of Somali ambulances
Mogadishu also got its first fleet of ambulances this week for many years

Another graduate, Yahye Abdi-rahman, 22, said: "Few can believe that education is available in a city of bullets and violence.

"But God is great, we have overcome all the problems and now we can enjoy the fruit of our resilience."

Abdirizak Yusuf, 25, head of the medical students' association at Benadir University, said: "If we get a good and functioning government we can be a leader among African universities, regardless of security, because we know how to survive in anarchy."

The president of the university was equally optimistic.

"The graduation of these students shows something that nobody outside Somalia can believe - that students can still learn despite violence and anarchy," Mohamed Malim Muse said.

It has been a good week for health services in Mogadishu.

On Tuesday, the city got its first public ambulance system in 18 years, raising hopes residents will no longer have to resort to wheelbarrows to transport their wounded.

Five emergency vehicles with a team of nurses will answer calls from patients to a new 24-hour emergency 777 helpline, thanks to help from a non-governmental organisation.

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