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Healthcare and hope in Somalia

4 November 2013

Somalia’s recent past is one characterised by civil war, droughts and famine that have claimed thousands of lives. But there are signs of hope.

The election of a new president in September last year was heralded as a “great step forward on the path to peace and prosperity,” according to the UN envoy to Somalia.

In April this year, the UK government opened its first embassy in Mogadishu since 1991.

As it looks forward to a post-conflict situation and the rebuilding of Somalia, the Somali Red Crescent Society (SRCS) has drawn up a new health strategy, which will shape its provision of health services over the next five years.

Developed with the support of the British Red Cross, and other partners, it comes after a significant expansion in the SRCS’s health services in recent years.

Where once it had just 20 clinics in 1992, it now has 69 static and 26 mobile clinics.

At the heart of the new programme is the aim of strengthening community-based healthcare focusing on preventative services.

Recent history

Somalia’s history as a nation state is relatively short. Founded in 1960, it has become synonymous with political strife and social discord.

The collapse of the central government in 1991 resulted in the ongoing armed conflict and a devastating humanitarian crisis.

Successive droughts and on-going conflict led to the 2011 famine in the country’s south, which claimed the lives of nearly 260,000 people, according to the United Nations. It was considered the most severe crisis since the 1991-92 famine.

The conflict and famine have displaced an estimated two million people within Somalia while more than one million people have fled the country with many seeking refuge at the Dadaab refugee camp in neighbouring Kenya.


The SRCS health services combine responses to the impact of conflict and related injuries, as well as the effects of conflict on the delivery of health services to the general population. A Somali woman in a health clinic receives an injection© Info

The new strategy has seven areas of focus:

  • primary health care – improving the range of services through the SRCS network
  • secondary health care – providing effective surgical healthcare
  • rehabilitative health care – enabling the rehabilitation of people with physical disability
  • community prevention and response – improving community engagement to prevent poor health
  • community beliefs and practices – addressing community attitudes towards harmful traditional practices 
  • effective partnerships – strengthen partnerships with communities, local authorities, the private sector and international organisations
  • SRCS institutional capacity – strengthen capacity at branch levels

The British Red Cross has helped fund the development of the strategy, supported the consultation of local communities and will be there to help the SRCS with the next steps.

Karen Peachey, British Red Cross East Africa Representative, said: “The new health strategy will guide the Somali Red Crescent’s health programming over the coming years.

“SRCS is an important provider of health services in the country running more than 70 health clinics on a daily basis countrywide – a huge increase from the 20 clinics it had in the early 1990’s.”

Formed in 1963, the SRCS is the largest indigenous humanitarian organisation working in the country with branches in all 19 regions of Somaliland, Puntland and South and Central Somalia.


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