Monday, June 18, 2018
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Mogadishu: Between Miracles and Maladies

By Hassan M. Abukar

Background: A well-placed Somali businessperson sent me this letter via e-mail. It is poignant and bold, straddling between hope and despair, frustration and relief, boom and bust. It is also a testament to the miracles taking place in the capital as well as the maladies it is suffering.

Dear Hassan:

Mogadishu, your beloved city, is in great turmoil, politically and security-wise, and more than at any other time, there is a lack of cash and capital movement within the capital’s business community.  A general sentiment of hopelessness and despair are palpable in the eyes of city dwellers.

A Turkish hospital in Mogadishu

My child suddenly fell sick, and I had no choice but to take him abroad for medical treatment.  Why did I do that? Mogadishu has two good working hospitals run by a Turkish medical team, but despite their good will, communication difficulties render their selfless services inadequate for medical treatment and, more importantly, psychological healing. The doctors only speak Turkish, which leads to confusion among the Somali translators about the medical terminology and means that the medicine instructions are written only in Turkish. Consequently, the patients feel miserable because they cannot understand their doctor.  Because they do not understand their doctor, patients do not know the source of their illness or how the doctors are treating it. Even so, we are still hundred times better off than before.

Despite the sophisticated medical instruments and well-prepared doctors, patients in the Turkish hospitals are confused and hopeless.  In short, the Turkish doctors are unable to heal the Somali patients’ illness by inspiring, explaining, and convincing them that everything will be fine. In addition, no one believes in their medicine, which is much better and more effective than that of the Somali doctors.   When I assessed the problems of Mogadishu’s best hospitals, I tried to explain their weaknesses to a senior Turkish diplomat.  He promised to take the necessary steps; hopefully, he will actually do something.

Let me tell you about Mogadishu’s health system.  There are supposedly three profitable business segments in Mogadishu. The first is the Hotel industry —but not anymore.   This lucrative business is not doing well anymore, because Al-Shabaab has targeted more than ten big hotels in the capital, people prefer to rent houses. As a result, Mogadishu’s hotels are empty and almost bankrupt.

University of Somalia

The second is the Clinics.  Mogadishu has more than forty small hospitals run by Somali doctors.  These hospitals have their own pharmacies and labs, which are the source of their profit because the cost for a visit is only ten dollars and sometimes less than that.  Doctors gain profit from their businesses by selling medicine to patients, many of which are counterfeit drugs and don’t cure their illness. Unfortunately, 500 mg. of antibiotics may contain only 50 mg—sometimes less than that.  The patients visit the Somali-owned medical office and go home with 10 to 12 types of medicine that will not cure their sickness.  Their only hope is that the doctor is Somali, and he or she can explain and give assurance that they will see a good result within a week, which does happen sometimes.

The third and final business is universities.  Every month a new university springs up.  Thousands of people enroll in these institutions without having received the necessary secondary education.  Every year these schools produce medical doctors, engineers, computer science experts, nurses, and lawyers whose education is not bar with advanced degree but to that to that of  high school standard.

Let me go back to the political turmoil.  There are a few months [this letter was written in April, 2016] left in this government’s term. There is a lot to be done in this short time.  I don’t know if we can make it, but no one has the courage to say that the plan of getting a parliament, president, prime minister and ministers in place by October 2016 is extremely ambitious. Every one of us, in business and politics alike, seems drunk or, more precisely, shamelessly indifferent about the final result and deadlines.

I am worried about Somalia’s future. What is happening now reminds me of what happened in 1992.  We have too many international contenders who are competing to exploit Somalia’s economic opportunities and strategic location. Between us, we are just contending clans, and clans cannot be a nation.

By the grace of Allah, I pray everything will work perfectly and will have government by the end of the year.

Hassan M. Abukar
Mr. Abukar is a regular contributor of Wardheernews and the author of Mogadishu Memoir. He can be contacted at

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