Sunday, 24 January 2010

SOMALIA: Hospital desperate for specialists

MOGADISHU, 21 January 2010 (IRIN) - As conflict continues in Somalia, the main hospital in Mogadishu, the capital, lacks orthopedic specialists to handle the increasing number of patients with broken limbs, a doctor has said.

"Currently, the patients with the most serious injuries are mostly young; 30 of them require specialized treatment that is not available in the country," Mohamed Yusuf, the director-general of Madina Hospital, told IRIN. "Since 2009, we have seen hundreds of patients requiring orthopedic treatment but very few of them can afford specialized treatment; 98 percent of the patients are too poor."

Mogadishu has borne the brunt of the fighting in Somalia, which pits an opposition Islamist group against government troops. The country has been conflict-ridden since 1991 when President Siad Barre was ousted. Although a transitional government is in place, fighting continues in Mogadishu as well as in southern and central parts of the country.

Yusuf said 95 percent of the patients treated in Madina were victims of gunshots and artillery shelling. Of these, he said, 45 percent have limb injuries; 9 percent have chest wounds, 8 percent head injuries and 8 percent stomach injuries.

"We treat and sometimes operate on those with stomach wounds but injuries of the legs are problematic to treat here because we don't have an experienced orthopedic doctor to reconstruct broken bones," Yusuf said. "The most difficult cases involve injuries where a bullet hit the bone, causing fragmentation. Reconstruction using special metal is required but at the moment we do not have a doctor specializing in this sector in the country."

Yusuf said the International Committee of the Red Cross was the main agency supporting Madina and supplying medicine but the availability of specialist doctors remained a challenge: "The only foreign doctors here are from Qatar, working in the maternity sector."

At the same time, Yusuf said the number of injured children was increasing. Most of them, he said, were victims of mortar shelling and since there was no orthopedic expertise available locally, many ended up becoming disabled.

Habiba Ahmed, 41, mother of a nine-year-old boy with spinal injuries, told IRIN: "My child has been suffering for almost four months now, parts of his bones are missing; he was injured when a mortar hit our home. I have come to Madina Hospital for him to be treated but I am told he requires treatment outside the country, which I cannot afford. My child remains disabled."

A report released by Amnesty International on 21 January says indiscriminate attacks in 2009 by all parties to the armed conflict resulted in thousands of civilians killed and hundreds of thousands displaced.

The UN estimates that at least 1.5 million Somalis are internally displaced while 3.7 million require humanitarian aid.

Source: IRIN

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