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Somalia: twenty years of work at Keysaney Hospital despite tough security situation

07-06-2012 Interview

Yusuf Mohamed Hassan, the director of Keysaney Hospital in Mogadishu since 2004, explains how the hospital's neutrality and impartiality have enabled it to maintain services over the past 20 years in one of the most dangerous environments in the world.

How did it all start in Keysaney Hospital?

The hospital officially opened its doors on 2 February 1992. The building was originally meant to be used as a prison. The ICRC transformed it into a hospital to serve everyone in Mogadishu, regardless of their clan affiliation or political views. At around that time the fighting had escalated and the hospital was admitting large numbers of patients on a daily basis. Over the years, when the situation deteriorated, the number of patients admitted sometimes exceeded the hospital's capacity.

What is the biggest challenge in running a hospital in Mogadishu today?

The biggest challenge we face is the security situation, especially when battles are raging near the hospital. Fighting is very common in Mogadishu and sometimes this affects our supply chain as well, or the access of patients to the hospital. Our staff are also under pressure because of the uncertainty of how things will turn out when fighting erupts. Their own families are in danger. Despite the challenges, we put our best foot forward and continue to work to save lives. We will keep on serving the population of Somalia now and in the future. Keysaney is a key institution that has played an essential role in providing emergency medical care for people affected by war for over 20 years now.

How have you managed to carry on with your work despite all the difficulties?

Two decades of armed conflict have taken a toll on the people and the country at large, resulting in a protracted humanitarian crisis. The infighting between different political factions has resulted in the destruction of essential infrastructure, including hospitals, all over the country. Despite all this, Keysaney Hospital has treated more than 216,000 people, including 30,000 weapon-wounded patients, since its inception 20 years ago. I believe that we have been able to function over time simply because of our impartiality and neutrality.

What was your most unforgettable moment in the hospital?

Treating wounded patients in a country like Somalia has never been easy. There was a time when fighting broke out in Mogadishu and we admitted so many wounded people. Among them was a family of eight. When they arrived, the mother passed away as her three-month-old baby was still suckling at her breast. This was the worst moment of my life working at Keysaney Hospital. The situation was unbearable for all my staff. We have had our fair share of experiences when it comes to seeing wounded patients in desperate circumstances, an almost daily occurrence. Nevertheless, we do have joyful moments as well – when a new baby is born, for example. Life continues despite everything. After all, we are here to save lives.

The ICRC completed upgrades to the facilities this year. What has been done?

The hospital has been expanded with the recent addition of a modern, state-of-the-art operating theatre. The feeling that the staff had on their first day of work inside the new operating theatre was unforgettable. Before, I felt as if I had been working in an actual prison and not in a hospital. With the ICRC's support, the hospital has now been completely refurbished and graced with a new operating theatre where surgery is performed on wounded patients. It makes our work a little bit easier, and motivates us all to go on every day.


Photos

Dr Yusuf Mohamed Hassan, director of Keysaney Hospital 

Dr Yusuf Mohamed Hassan, director of Keysaney Hospital
© ICRC

Mogadishu, 2012. Entrance to Keysaney Hospital 

Mogadishu, 2012. Entrance to Keysaney Hospital
© ICRC / so-e-00641