Precarious status within the Somaliland mental health sector and outdated treatment methods and facilities are a thing of the past now.
This follows the opening of an ultra-modern mental health unit at the Hargeisa Group hospital, the main public medical facility in Somaliland on the 26th February 2017.
. The new mental health wing is the brainchild of Somaliland nationals from the diaspora, they actually came up with this brilliant idea while in Cardiff, Wales after returning from a summer tour to Somaliland. The mental health stress decadence is as a result of a poor lifestyle after destruction of the country by conflicts and the consumption of the drug stimulant Khat. SMHSO main goal is to create awareness about the plight of mental health patients in Somaliland and provide support to mental institutions and patients by closely working with the government through the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders.??According to the Somaliland programme director of SMHSO Mr. Hashi Abdi Hassan who was the master of ceremony at the opening function briefly stated how they were flabbergasted by the state of affairs of mental patients and the deplorable situation they were forced to put up with following the society looking the other side. Furthermore the few who afforded treatment were living in squalid wards unfit for human habitation. While others were chained like criminals under trees or in isolation rooms the stigma was heart wrenching and dehumanizing.
The SMHSO Somaliland programme director who addressed guests of honour and journalists briefly stated the history of the organization which was founded in Cardiff in 2011 by like minded Somalilander living in the UK. ?He had these to say “It was seven months ago when we laid the foundation of this magnificent building, many people then thought it may mean another white elephant project but today we are here witnessing its opening ceremony. It consists of 14 single rooms unit with reinforced grill doors which will go a long way to stop hard core mental patients in the tertiary stage from escaping treatment. Every room has a new bed, a mattress and a blanket. There is also a room for pharmacy, a security room and three administration offices?exquisitely furnished. We have also constructed 15 lavatories and bathrooms for the mental inpatients ass hygiene is paramount in mental health hospitals. ” The master of ceremony then called on the treasurer of the SMHSO Mr. Adam Ige Yusuf to open the meeting and after reciting the verses of the Qur’an he said, “This mental hospital was build in1971 by the late president of Somalia Colonel Mohammed Siad Barre until now it’s almost a half a century. Needless to say this new mental health wing which Somaliland Mental Health Support Organization has implemented was constructed through the sheer contribution of Somali Diaspora and locals who have contributed from as little 10 dollar to $100, others contributed their time or ideas, no wonder this new mental hospital building was made a possibility by the people of Somaliland with help from outsiders. We have to fight the culture of dependency and learn to support ourselves. This new mental wing cost $85000 to complete. However before we started the construction another problem arisen the Borama and Burao hospitals lacked medical supplies so we had to fundraise to come up with $24000 which we used to replenish their mental health drugs before we went back to the construction of this mental hospital. I gratefully thank those people who contributed to this heavenly endeavour. Today we start in Hargeisa and our next priority is Sool and Sanaag which lack mental health facilities.” He requested the government to make available land for the construction of the new hospitals and prayed for all the contributors in this project for the best in the hereafter.
Professor Eid Ali Ahmed who is consultant and advisor for SMHSO said that he joined the organization two years ago as he was impressed with the teamwork of the members of the management committee and volunteers of the organisation and their remarkable achievements and aspirations to provide appropriate mental health provision. He underlined that mental health service is mariginlised and under resourced comparing other health servces in Somaliland. So he said “for the sake of that we want to create an international independent organization that can get donations from the principal donors including Multilateral and Bilateral Agencies, International NGOs, Philanthropists, Foundations and Trusts as we have highly qualified and experienced Somali Diaspora Psychiatrist, Psychologists and Nurses who could do skills and knowledge transfer and individuals who have the competence, ability, experience, knowledge and the capacity to manage grants.
Eid publicly sent his sincere gratitude to the Hub Cymru Africa ‘although they were not part of this building project they are very close partner to SMHSO and we are very grateful for their financial support that they provided us to implement awareness session and capacity building workshops in Borama, Burao and Hargeisa last year. Also he extended his gratitude to Wales partner organisations in the voluntary and public sector particularly Cardiff and Vale UHB – Primary Mental Health Support Service as 8 men and 8 women from Somali Community have been trained in Mental Health First Aid to serve members of the community and those in Somaliland as well.
The chairman of Hargeisa Health Authority Mr. Ahmed Mohumamed Mader also highly thanked, welcomed and praised the remarkable voluntary services and efforts of SMHSO and he mentioned that he is very happy for their transparency, effectiveness, achievements and accountability.
In addition, the chairman of the Organisation Enjoining Good and Forbidding Wrongdoing, Sheikh Abdirahman Mohamed also mentioned that he work closely with SMHSO and that he is very happy and pleased for their work. Furthermore, the chairman of Somaliland Zakah Foundation Dr Saeed Mohamed Farah also emphasized the importance of this building and how its important to collectively collaborate with the organization to sustain the hygiene and medication of this emergency unit to attain the realization of its intended vision, improving the lives of the mentally challenged people.
The chairman of medical doctors Dr. Abdirizak Yusuf took the speech and after greetings, acknowledged the commitment and dedication of this group of volunteers (SMHSO) he particularly mentioned that there is strong need for financial and technical support and the government provides very minimal of it.
Also Professor Abdi Ismail ‘Duce’ who Higher Education Commissioner highly commended the determination, dedication and achievements of the committee and volunteers of SMHSO to cater the needs of those suffering from mental health.
Somaliland Mental Health Director Dr Mustafa Hussein Hirsi said “This is my first time to sit in a fully exquisitely furnished office and thanks to the input and support of SMHSO. Also I send my heartfelt thanks to the citizens who organized this construction and I have no words to express my gratitude.”
Director General of Hargeisa Group Hospital Dr. Ahmed Omar Askar said “Today is a great day because the mental hospital has been completed I thank these patriots from Cardiff for a job well done. Our mission is to see mental patients receive medication at home and live in the community so that we may decongest our hospital and only chronic cases could be admitted. So I hope this building will need psychiatrists to treat this patient’s we humbly ask for the SMHSO to help in manpower power development if they could to train our clinical officers in mental health treatment.
Then the Director introduce Somaliland State Minister of Health, Mr. Mohamud Jama Galaal who warmly thanked SMHSO from Cardiff for a wonderful work. He stressed the need to prioritise the diagnosis of mild depression and other health misnomer at the community level so that this fragile individuals can be given moral support and help they need before their illnesses become chronic. The government has already drawn a policy which is still on the drawing board when it shall be completed we will bring the circular to concerned organizations and government health departments”. He strongly underlined that the government particularly the Ministry of Health to give all possible support to SMHSO and highly commended the noble humanitarian achievements so far the organisation has attained.
This highly organized event and opening ceremony to the new mental health building hospital assembled all the stakeholders such as community organizations, international organization, government officials, celebrates, religious leaders, women coalitions and disability and mental service associations. All the guests highly welcomed the contribution of SMHSO to this forgotten sector and they stressed that they are with them. After all that, the guests went for observation of the new building.