The United Nations Migration Agency (IOM), has started bringing health services to the people of Gobweyn and Bulla Gaduud – two towns in south-eastern Somalia that were recently liberated by the government. For the past 27 years, war and conflict have made healthcare access difficult or impossible in many parts of the country. Now these communities have access to vaccinations, malaria treatment, antenatal care for pregnant mothers, malnutrition screenings and referrals, among other essential health services.
In partnership with Jubaland State’s Ministry of Health (MoH), IOM supported the re-opening of Gobweyn Health Centre, and is providing mobile outreach clinics in Bulla Gaduud, Kham Kham and Yontoy villages. Government forces have been taking back new areas like Bulla Gaduud and Gobweyn from armed non-state actors in recent months, which has in turn increased the need for health services.
Aid agencies have hitherto been unable to reach these towns due to insecurity and the presence of armed groups in the surroundings. Upon re-establishing services, IOM and MoH clinical teams noted the challenges of high malnutrition rates and poor immunization coverage. With humanitarian services now available, it is expected that people from these villages, many of whom are currently residing in overcrowded settlements for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in far-away urban centres, will begin to return to their home communities.
An estimated 20,000 people live in Bulla Gaduud. Speaking during the opening of the Bulla Gaduud clinic early October, Shukri Mohamed Seyyid Ahmed, the Chair Lady of the Bulla Gaduud Women’s Association, explained: “Prior to today, we [used to seek] healthcare services in Kismayo, but we lost so many lives in trying to transport emergency cases there.
Sadly, two children died [recently] of acute watery disease [cholera] due to having nothing here and no health facility to send them to. However, today health services have been brought closer to us and we thank IOM and the Jubaland Ministry of Health for enabling us to receive medical care right at our doorsteps.”
Abdirashid Omar Khalif, the deputy village leader and youth representative in Gobweyn, expressed his joy during the launch mid-October of the health facility in his town. “We are agricultural people [farmers]. We had to leave behind our farms and livestock to take our sick children all the way to Kismayo town which is 20 kilometres away, but today we can take our children to this clinic,” he said. Gobweyn town alone has four main settlements with over 480 households, according to community leaders.