The shutdown of mobile health services has left rural communities in remote areas north of Kismayo, in Somalia’s Jubbaland state, unable to access critical medical treatment without long journeys to over-crowded clinics in the nearest town.
Three mobile health providers based in Bulagudud, Gobweyn, and Yontoy urban centres used to visit 12 remote villages on a rotating basis, ensuring that the pastoralist and farming families living there could access health care six days a week without charge.
Idris Hassan Mohamoud, the Director General of the Jubbaland Ministry of Health, confirmed the ending of the health services for the communities living far from the urban centres due to the termination of funding by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
He said the ministry was recently notified that the fund for this project that has run since 2017 had been terminated.
Abdio Oyow Osma, a pregnant woman living in one of the villages, told Radio Ergo that she had to walk for more than three hours carrying her sick child to reach the nearest health centre in Bulagudud.
However, she found the centre was overwhelmed by patients and she had to wait for many hours.
“I am sick, and so is my child
-he has open sores all over his mouth. We’ve come here because it was nearest to us compared with the distance to Kismayo, and we have waiting here all day,” Abdio said.
Hussein Mohammed Haji, the medical officer at Bulagudud health clinic, told Radio Ergo that they used to receive on average up to 70 patients a day, but since the closure of the mobile services they are now receiving more than 180 patients a day.
“The increased burden is due to the fact that many people in areas where the mobile health teams were operating are now coming here,” he said.
The medical team at Bulagudud health clinic have formally requested the Jubbaland Ministry of Health to find a solution for the increased demand on their services. The medical stocks that they receive from the ministry every month are not enough to meet the needs.
Osman Abdi Adan lives at Wirkooy, 15 km from Bulagudud, and brought his two sick sisters, one of them pregnant, to seek treatment at the health clinic.
“We came here yesterday and we were told to come back tomorrow, because there was not enough medicine…or because medicine is on its way…or because of this and that…sometimes you can’t even get a painkiller at this centre!” he complained in frustration.
According to the Jubbaland government, the rural mobile health services are still needed.
“We requested from both the implementing and the funding partner to extend the project, but they told us that the project funds have been exhausted and there are no allocated funds for a renewal,” said Idris Hassan Mohamoud, the health ministry Director General.
From 2017, IOM had focused on humanitarian projects in Somalia, with Kismayo as one of the strategic locations for IOM’s response and preparedness to emergencies. Health was viewed as a key service particularly in refugee and migrant producing areas. However, IOM’s strategy since 2019 has shifted away from the delivery of frontline services towards the pursuit of long-term recovery and durable solutions.