x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 September 2017

Emirati doctors treating more than 1,000 victims of Somalia’s drought daily

Dr Adel Al Shamry, chief executive of the Zayed Giving Initiative, said work to help those affected by the draught in the city of Hargeisa are being hampered by extreme poverty and disease.

Dr Salwa Al Janahi is one of 25 doctors so far volunteering as part of the Zayed Giving Initiative in Somalia. Courtesy Zayed Giving Organisation
Dr Salwa Al Janahi is one of 25 doctors so far volunteering as part of the Zayed Giving Initiative in Somalia. Courtesy Zayed Giving Organisation

ABU DHABI // Emirati doctors leading a humanitarian mission to help victims of the famine in Somalia are treating more than 1,000 men, women and children each day. But medical staff fear their efforts are still not enough as the country struggles to cope with its third famine in 25 years.

Dr Adel Al Shamry, chief executive of the Zayed Giving Initiative, said work to help those affected by the drought in the city of Hargeisa are being hampered by extreme poverty and disease.

“Children are dying from malnutrition. Diseases are so widespread and cholera is back claiming the lives of thousands,” said Dr Al Shamry. “You can’t imagine how horrific the situation is right now.”

The UAE has sent millions of dirhams and thousands of tonnes of food aid and medical supplies to the African country. Last month, a charity telethon raised Dh165 million within hours.

Dr Al Shamry said the international community needed to work together to help Somalia.

“We cannot do this on our own. The situation is so bad that it requires international aid. The entire world has to contribute to help save the lives of thousands of children whose lives are at risk.”

Last month, the ZGI, along with the Dar Al Ber Society, Sharjah Charity House and the Saudi-German Hospital, built the first mobile hospital in Hargeisa. The hospital has six units staffed by a team of Emirati and Somali doctors.

Twenty-five Emirati doctors have pledged to provide 2,000 hours of medical care to children and elderly patients.

“We see 1,000 patients a day and still this isn’t nearly enough to help the people of Somalia,” Dr Al Shamry said, adding the aim was for Emirati doctors to train Somali staff to run the hospital themselves.

“This is a sustainable project and hopefully by the end of 2017 will be fully run by Somalis.”

According to Unicef, about 1.4 million children in Somalia are feared to suffer acute malnourishment this year, an increase of 50 per cent on last year.

“The combination of drought, disease and displacement are deadly for children, and we need to do far more, and faster, to save lives,” said Steven Lauwerier, Unicef Somalia representative.

Somalia is in the midst of a drought after rains failed in November last year for a third year in a row. About 615,000 people searching for food and water have since been displaced.

Women and children who make the trek, generally on foot, to places where they hope to find assistance are often robbed or worse, both on the way to, and in, camps for the displaced. There have been reports of sexual abuse, including rape, the UN agency said. Some children have been conscripted into armed groups.

Unicef spokesperson Marixie Mercado said a severely malnourished and dehydrated child could die in a matter of hours if they were not treated for diarrhoea and cholera.

Ms Mercado had just returned from Baidoa in Somalia, which has more than half the 28,400 cholera cases documented so far this year.

Aid groups in Somalia are seeking US$825 million (Dh3.03 billion) to reach the most vulnerable until next month.

Dr Shamsa Al Awar, executive director of Humanity Doctors, said UAE doctors have volunteered thousands of hours to serve the poor by forming diagnostic, therapeutic and educational teams.

Thousands of patients have benefited in Hargeisa as part of an annual programme to reach thousands of vulnerable people.

salnuwais@thenational.ae