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Published On: Fri, Apr 15th, 2016

THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS ON HEALTH AND MEDICATION: THE CASE OF SOMALILAND

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Somaliland, as a nascent nation-state with previous difficult history, has begun almost

everything from the scratch. During the devastative, bloody wars—which were mainly caused by

the brutality and the abuses of Siyad’s regime, all sectors including health sector were

destroyed. Moreover, some researchers, who write about the Somali history and state, argue

that the health sector of the former Somali state was one of the most drastically-affected areas

as health facilities and training institutions were severely demolished. The country’s primary

public assets including health equipments were looted. The abuses against the rule of law

became obvious in all spheres of citizens’ lives, particularly in the health sector. The economic

and social infrastructures were also annihilated to the extent that an alien could feel nothing

about even their existence at one time in the history! This phenomenon of mayhem and

catastrophes has been an opportunity for literally all evils to come in and streamline in the

people’s lifestyle. Corruption at different levels became business as usual and unfortunately

turned into a value that is usually and expectedly possessed by the so-called elites of the

society including the medical practitioners who have been serving during post Siyad Barre’s era.

In this regard, nothing of the state machinery was in the public domain as such. Thus, the

absence of the entire social services particularly health amenities worsened the situation and

accordingly put the public to a tight corner. Though Somaliland was reborn with the vision of

excluding itself from the dreadful context of the other Somali territories, it had to still struggle

with the ramifications of the failed Somali state. As a result, people in Somaliland found difficult

in coping with the limitations of the health sector. Since 2005, it has been very rare to see

qualified medical practitioners serving at the public health centers in Somaliland. In this

situation, a vacuum literally came to light. This vacuum— characterized by an absence of quality

medication and accessible health services—provided an opportunity to a vast number of

untrained practitioners who claim that they have experiences on medicine and more surprisingly

treat patients by resorting to mendacity and erratic prescriptions that consist of herbal and even

chemical drugs. Because health conditions of most of the people is poor and people are eager

to commit any resources they could afford to pay in order to seek treatments, the health sector

had gradually seemed as a highly profitable business niche! Though it is inhumane to seek

profits in such critically humanitarian work, yet there are a lot of medical service providers who

pursue health services as commercial engagements. It is absolutely no astonishing to stumble

upon a person who is complaining about illnesses and at the same time conducting

prescriptions by lavishly purchasing drugs from the untrained pharmacists. In this regard, you

cannot be blamed if you describe this patient as a patient-doctor. Similarly, there is a huge

misperception on both medicines and medications. Doctors are not often approached as first

patient’s resort. Traditional medications are used and sometimes traditional healers are referred

to. Consequently, there are an imaginable number of malpractices caused by the incumbent

context of absent medical regulations, untrained and/or negligent practitioners and poor

amenities.

The health centers functioning in the country are not all proper and responsible institutions. A lot

of them are traditional medical centers, such as Elajis—sort of traditional healing small centers,

which provide treatments based on assumptions and uncalculated guesses. These centers

pose challenges to the safety of the community as they are neither organized in a proper way

nor equipped with medical expertise or proper facilities. As a result, there are numerous ill-

treated victims at these centers whose cases are unfortunately difficult to be now managed by

even professional medical doctors.

Furthermore, when it comes to maladministration and ineffectiveness, the traditional health

centers cannot only be blamed. But, hospitals should be also impugned. Our hospitals seem

incapable of addressing the vast health needs of the public. Therefore, their administration and

service delivery capacities are feeble and need to be critically promoted. The unawareness of

the public of their rights to enjoy with medical safety and access to proper medication drastically

magnified the challenges of the poor service delivery of the medical institutions of the country.

Because there should be a space to enjoy and a way to escape in where there is no adequate

public awareness and effective regulatory framework that could pose accountability, checks and

balances.

In this note, I would like to describe the critical need for unanimous collaborations and

commitment to promote the health sector of our country. Nevertheless, I acknowledge both the

gradual increase of the government budget on health sector and the substantial focus of the

NGOs on the areas of health awareness and services for the communities in need. I believe that

we need to triple the current efforts and cooperate for ensuring coordinated, strategic and

effective health sector.

To put down my central point of my article, I would highlight the fact that there is undeniable

vast public misperception of the realities of health and medication. As a result of this

misperception and unawareness on health and medication issues, negative ramifications—

ranging from inadequacy of community access to proper medication to absence of mechanisms

of accountability for controlling health sector actors and practitioners—transpired as realities on

the ground.

In conclusion, I would like to underline the following points as my recommendations for

overcoming the challenges I have mentioned above:

 Pursue effective public awareness-raising on health and medication;

 Coordinate stakeholders in implementing the national health policy and ensure effective

and integrated policy and programme frameworks for promoting the capacities of health

posts, centers and institutions and enhancing public access to health services and

facilities;

 Strengthen medical training institutions for pursuing comprehensive studies and surveys

on the health issues of the country;

 Upscale the capacity of the concerned government agencies on health issues and

promote the effectiveness of the Somaliland medical association;

 Strengthen the existing supervision and monitoring mechanisms for bolstering the

accountability and the sound practice of the health sector;

 Increase the national budget allocation for the programmes on health;

 Establish coordinated and comprehensive national service of mobile medical campaigns

so as to enhance the health of the rural and poor communities and in order to fight

against the ill-practicing traditional healing practitioners and the spread of wrongful,

incorrect information and perceptions on health and medications.

N.B: This article was first published in Amoud Medical Journal two years and 6 months

ago, during my internship period.

Dr.AbdiRahman Ali.A.Jiciir.

General Physician at Manhal speciality Hospital

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