By T. Roble
WHEN FORMER PRESIDENT Hassan Sheikh Mohamud cut the ribbon to open a UAE built and run hospital to offer free services targeting the poor and internally displaced people in Mogadishu June 5, 2015, Somalia and UAE saw diplomatic relationship taken a notch higher coming barely a month after a military training centre by UAE had just opened in the city.
The facility, Sheikh Zayed Hospital would provide free medical services to up to 300 patients a day but fast forward April 16, 2017, the medical facility has shut its doors thanks to a free fall diplomatic row between the two countries.
“We received orders to close the hospital for good,” Dr. Salim Nurane who has hitherto been the director of Sheikh Zayed hospital in Mogadishu’s Abdi Aziz district told Goobjoog News.
Dr. Nurane was categorical that the orders from his country were clear that the hospital should officially cease operations. When Goobjoog News visited the hospital, only the security guards were present as the once busy hospital remains deserted.
The closure whose genesis is traced to souring relations between Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi since the onset of Gulf Crisis in June 2016 now spells doom for thousands of Mogadishu residents who have been getting free medical help from the hospital. UAE also ordered its military trainers in Mogadishu Monday to end training and military support to Somali National Army which would now see the responsibility of over 2000 soldiers directly shouldered by Somalia.
But for up to 9,000 patients a month who have been accessing medicine, ultra sound and x-ray services among others for free since 2015, a tussle between their homeland and a distant friend turned ‘foe’ means no more than a burden once lifted off their shoulders returning.
“We receive between 200 and 300 patients a day who get all services and medicine available in the hospital for free,” Dr. Nurane said. “We offer general check-ups, ultra-sound and x-rays for free.”
INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE
Majority of the patients to this hospital are from poor backgrounds with a good number from internally displaced persons camp. At least two million people are internally displaced in Somalia with half of that uprooted out of their homes last year as a result of a devastating drought.
But it not only patients who are now bearing the brunt of the hospital closure. According to Dr. Nurane, the hospital had a total of 40 medical staff both Somali and Emirati nationals. Out of these, 14 are doctors with different specialisations.
Somalia said Monday it was opening talks with UAE to diffuse the diplomatic tension adding it had received satisfactory explanation from UAE regarding $9.6 million seized in Aden Adde Airport, Mogadishu last week.