The historic opening of the state of the art medical and research facility in Mogadishu by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoganlast month not only proved Turkey’s commitment to deepening diplomatic and socio-economic ties with Somalia but also demonstrated a time honored act of giving.
Such was the measure of giving that a week ago when Alshabab attacked worshippers in Central Hotel in Mogadishu killing over twenty people and injuring more than fifty others, victims were rushed to Somalia-Turkey Education and Research Hospital, renamed as Erdogan Education and Reseach Hospital, where they received quality medical attention.
Emergency medical help
Some of the government officials and lawmakers who were injured in the twin explosions are now receiving treatment in the facility with the attention of qualified doctors from Turkey and Somalia. This would not have been possible a few months ago when such cases were referred to other countries in the region and beyond. The urgency and gravity of the situation could not wait for an extra hour; time was running fast and the risk of fatality was high. A flight to the nearest good hospital was across the border in Nairobi but that too would not have saved lives that needed urgent and quality care. Not to mention the delay caused by the stop-over in Wajir town required by Kenyan government for every plane coming from Somalia to Nairobi.
Erdogan Education and Research Hospital is barely two kilometers from the scene of the incident and doctors were on standby to receive the wounded and provide emergency care.
In less than 20 minutes, victims of the explosion were already getting treatment at the hospital and doctors were quick to point out that the timely presence of the hospital was critical in saving lives and averting medical conditions which would otherwise have occurred as a result of delayed medical attention. Those injured in the explosion included the deputy prime minister Mohamed Omar Arte Qalib, some members of parliament among other senior government officials.
Reduced medical cost
Besides the inconvenience of distance and time, the cost of treatment in Mogadishu has significantly been reduced thus saving thousands of citizens the extra cost of travelling outside the country. For the government, the cost of treating victims of the explosion is now marginal.
It is against this backdrop therefore that the ingenuity of the Turkish government in financing, construction and equipping the hospital cannot be gainsaid. For background, the medical and research facility whose construction commenced after Erdogan’s visit to Somalia in 2011 when he was Prime Minister has a 3,500-square-meter indoor space, boasts 12 intensive care beds and 14 newborn intensive care beds. The hospital also runs four operating rooms, 20 incubators, and a delivery room in addition to radiology, oncology and laboratory units. In total the hospital has a capacity for 200 beds.
Multimillion dollar investment
The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) which is Turkey’s international development body responsible for the construction of the facility has indicated that the medical and research hospital will run on a $135.7 million budget for the next five years of which Turkey’s health ministry will contribute $85.6 million during the five-year period. The rest will be financed by the Somali government.
Additionally, Some 52 Turkish and 91 local staff work as hospital administrators, head doctors, administrative directors or financial directors. Security is being provided by 40 Somalis and five Turkish citizens. Some 36 Somali assistant medical professionals are expected to take part in the hospital’s training program each year.
It is anticipated that in the next five years Somali doctors will be in a position to take over the running of the facility and continue providing quality service as the case is at the moment.
In its 2014 report on the State of World Mothers, the charity organization Save the Children ranked Somalia as the worst country in the world to be a mother noting that maternal death during pregnancy stands at one for every sixteen women.
However the opening of the medical and research facility by the Turkish government is expected to significantly reverse these trends; a no mean feat by whichever standard given the challenges the country has to grapple with after many years of collapse of national institutions.
The intensive care beds for newborn and delivery rooms will go a long way in reducing birth related deaths and conditions which have been a major problem for women in the country. But of course the magnitude of the problem is so huge; the capacity of the hospital to handle all cases will remain an issue.
In addition to this, the research wing of the hospital will provide a much needed opportunity for doctors in Somalia and the region to advance research in medical conditions in the country and prescribe proper medical remedies. Young researchers and medical students in universities in Somalia will also benefit through research and internships.
The historical ties which Somalia and Turkey have enjoyed dates back close to a millennia during the Ottoman Empire and has been reinvigorated in the recent past through mutually beneficial initiatives.
Somali president captured this thought in his speech during the visit of Turkish president recently. ‘‘Turkey has shown the way in developing a holistic, on-the-ground partnership with Somalia that has supported us in growing according to a nationally-led and owned agenda. Turkey has tied its various efforts together in an integrated development model that combines humanitarian aid, development projects and financial investment,’’ said president Mohamud.
This view is exemplified by Turkey’s help to train Somali nationals in the fields of medicine through scholarship, an indication of Turkey’s commitment to avoiding the dependency syndrome which has been symptomatic of most bilateral relations in Africa.