Serving The Somali People
July 1st, 2009 by INMED
Pirates, Somalia, Mogadishu, battling warlords, Black Hawk Down. These words provoke images of immense anguish and adversity. Most people flee at the thought of providing any sort of assistance under these conditions. But one particular physician from the American Midwest is serving Somalia intentionally, and his identity must remain anonymous due to security concerns. He and his family have lived in the Middle East for sixteen years, and I recently visited with him in East Africa:
What are the conditions today in Somalia?
“Worse than at any other time since the war broke out in 1991, with relentless clashes between militant factions, clan militia, and African Union troops. Millions of people are clinging to survival in tent cities and refugee camps, amid endemic hunger, water-born diseases, and hopelessness. The number one health problem in the nation is neglect.People come to us with far advanced cancers, disabling deformities from burns, complicated gun shot wounds.”
Why are you especially passionate about Somalis?
“These are endearing people living under extremely challenging conditions, and very few outsiders are assisting them. Medicine is an extremely effective way to meet their real physical needs, to build trust, and to equip Somali medical personnel to care for their own.”
Most all Somalis are Moslem and yours is a notable Christian ministry. Yet Somalis unapologetically seek you out for medical attention. Why is this?
“Christian healthcare professionals have a good reputation in the Middle East, thanks to the tireless service of hundreds who have gone before me. Jesus is also known in Moslem circles as the ‘healing prophet,’ and they perceive a connection between Him and healthcare. All-in-all, we offer superb, compassionate attention, so that Somalis who are able, frequently come directly to us from Mogadishu.”
What would you say to healthcare professionals in North America who feel moved to relieve the plight of Somalis?
“First, realize that Somalis frequently feel misunderstood. Invest some effort in getting to know them, their beliefs, and their remarkable culture. Events like the INMED Cross-Cultural Competency in Healthcare Symposium are ideal for learning how to bridge these gaps. Large contingents of Somalis also live in the Cleveland and Minneapolis areas. Link up with those organizations that are already serving Somalis in your community. And consider volunteering your skills here in Africa and the Middle East. INMED’s Diploma programs are designed to both prepare you and ease the enormous transition to serving here on the front lines.”
You and I will likely continue receiving disturbing news from the eastern horn of Africa. But lets be heartened that Somalia is not only a story of rebels and renegade gunboats. Theirs is also a story of courage and compassion – one which we ourselves can help shape.