“The government has taken-over all responsibilities formerly under MSF at the Burao General Hospital” Deputy Health minister Nimo Qawdan
“In choosingto kill, attack, and abduct humanitarian aid workers, these armed groups, and the civilian authorities who tolerate their actions, have sealed the fate of countless lives in Somalia,” for we are ending our programs because the situation in the country has created an untenable imbalance between the risks and compromises our staff must make, and our ability to provide assistance to the Somali people.” Dr. Unni Karunakara, MSF’s international president.
By: Yusuf M Hasan
HARGEISA/BURAO (Somalilandsun) – The Cessation of humanitarian and Development interventions within Somalia speaking areas by MSF was the main topic of agenda at this Thursday’s bi-weekly council of ministers meeting chaired by president Ahmed Mahmud Silanyo.
The high level attention given by the government of Somaliland to the sudden withdrawal of services by MSF on 14th August emanate from the gap both administrative and financial prevailing at the Burao general hospital which has been under the full control of the international organization for the past three years.
According to the deputy health minister Ms Nimo Qawdan, the government will take full responsibility for all services provided by MSF at the Togdeer regional hospital as it solicits other avenue of replacement support.
Ms Qawdan who commiserated MSF for the tribulations encountered by staff both expatriate and national in Somalia ranging from killings to kidnappings for ransom also thanked the Doctors without Borders for uplifting health standards in Togdeer and other eastern regions of the country within a short span of three years.
“The infrastructural , Human resources and equipment developments implemented by MSF at Burao Hospital is immense and has tremendously improved provision of quality health services in the entire eastern parts of the country” Said the deputy health minister.
Though all departments at the hospital were developed, the main beneficiaries are surgery and Maternity wing with the MSF constructed and equipped theatre catering for all surgical needs of residents of Togdeer, Sanaag and Sool regions.
“The maternity wing with state of the art tools and fully skilled staff is currently performing 500 births on a monthly basis for Togdeer residents while acting as a maternity referral for difficult or complicated deliveries from Sool and Sanaag regions” Said Ms Qawdan
The government has also allayed fears expressed by staff as pertains their hefty monthly remuneration which MSF paid in the two categories of Salaries and allowances, the central government in Hargeisa having reassumed full charge of the Burao Hospital.
According to the deputy health minister the MSF paid allowances to personnel who are in the government payroll while those international agency paid salaries received allowances from the central coffers.
“Since the bulk of staff at the hospital is already in the payroll of the central coffers, avenues are being explored on mechanisms of absorbing those whose salaries were paid by MSF.
While securing urgent funds outside the annual budgetary allocations is likely to succeed due to the urgency and attention given by the central government the main challenge for the health ministry is absorbing the highly MSF paid staff and whose skills are vital at civil service salary scale.
Meanwhile the intent of the government to maintain MSF established standards at Burao general hospital has received the unanimous support of the medical staff in Togdeer region who informed that they will continue with service provision at the Burao hospital despite the unannounced departure of MSF.
This was revealed during a press briefing at the Burao hospital by the regional health coordinator Dr Abdi Yassin who was flanked by the hospital’s director Dr Abdiqadir Muruqle, members of staff and patients who unanimously expressed their dismay at the exit of MSF.
“The withdrawal of MSF operations at the Burao General Hospital shall not affect quality service provision to residents of Togdeer region” Regional health coordinator Dr Abdi Yassin as he informed that services shall be offered as usual and uninterruptedly.
According to Dr Muruqle whose thanks to MSF were profuse, the skills availed local personnel through intense off and on the job training by the international agency is sufficient to sustain current levels and quality of service provision at Burao Hospital.
Despite these assurances a number of patients and staff members who reminiscence the drab conditions of the hospital during the pre MSF, castigated those responsible for insecurity in Somalia that forced MSF to withdraw from the entire region.
Meanwhile Togdeer Regional and local administrators have queried the connection between insecurity in Somalia and the health or otherwise of Somaliland citizens during a damage control meeting at the governors offices.
According to Governor Hamarje and Deputy Mayor Hoday Somaliland and Somalia are two separate countries thus internal affairs of one should not affect the other as has happened following the service withdrawal of MSF which has apart from being the biggest employer among international organizations in Somalia has also been providing vital services in the entire Horn Region.
While taking pride in the fact that MSF has never encountered any insecurity related problems during its presence in Burao and entire nation of Somaliland the two officials asked MSF to set up its headquarters in Hargeisa which is more secure than the Bronx in New York City.
Announcing its withdrawal of services from the Hor Regio MSF stated “After working continuously in Somalia since 1991, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) today (14th August) announces the closure of all its programmes in the country, the result of extreme attacks on its staff in an environment where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers”.
“In some cases, the same actors—particularly but not exclusively in south central Somalia—with whom MSF must negotiate minimum guarantees to respect its medical humanitarian mission, have played a role in the abuses against MSF staff”.
“Over its 22-year history in Somalia, MSF has negotiated with armed actors and authorities on all sides. The exceptional humanitarian needs in the country have pushed the organization and its staff to tolerate unparalleled levels of risk – much of it borne by MSF’s Somali colleagues — and to accept serious compromises to its operational principles of independence and impartiality”
“The most recent incidents include the brutal killing of two MSF staff in Mogadishu in December 2011 and the subsequent early release of the convicted killer; and the violent abduction of two staff in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya that ended only last month after a 21-month captivity in south central Somalia. Fourteen other MSF staff members have been killed, and the organization has experienced dozens of attacks on its staff, ambulances, and medical facilities since 1991”
“In choosing to kill, attack, and abduct humanitarian aid workers, these armed groups, and the civilian authorities who tolerate their actions, have sealed the fate of countless lives in Somalia,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, MSF’s international president. “We are ending our programs in Somalia because the situation in the country has created an untenable imbalance between the risks and compromises our staff must make, and our ability to provide assistance to the Somali people.”