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SOS Somali Doctor: "I hope one day Somalia will be safe"

Dr Abdullahi Hussein is the Chief Medical Officer at the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu. Trained in Somalia and Italy, he worked in Europe until 2005 when he returned to his home country to help the suffering people. In December 2009, he became a victim of a suicide bomb. He survived to tell his story:

Dr Abdullahi Hussein is the Chief Medical Officer at the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu"I was one of the victims of a suicide bomb in Mogadishu on 3 December at the Hotel Shamo. I received an invitation by Banadir University in Mogadishu to participate in a graduation ceremony in Hotel Shamo at 8:00 am. We reached the place on time, I and two other doctors, as well as the principal of the SOS Nursing School. The other two doctors were Dr Tahlil, an SOS doctor, and a doctor who came from Somaliland for training on C-Section procedure at our hospital. We all sat in the fifth row, but the dean of the university called me to sit next to him in the first row with other colleague doctors, and Doctor Tahlil moved to the third row. The ceremony hall had one main entrance and another emergency exit; the main entrance was at the back, and the emergency exit was situated on the left side of the first row.

A huge explosion

The ceremony started at 9:00 am and there were graduating students in three faculties: medicine, computer sciences and education. At 10:00 am four ministers from the Somali government arrived. The ministers were from higher education, health, sports and education. I gave up my seat to the Minister of Health and moved to the second row behind the minister. At approximately 11:30 am I heard a huge explosion. And that was all I knew!

I incurred an abdominal injury, (multiple fragments in the anterior of the abdominal wall), injury of both legs, but no fracture, and there was a fracture in the second finger of the right hand. Immediately, I fell down on the floor and I was conscious but bleeding from my abdomen, hands and legs, and I waited for some one to help me, but I saw people dying with my very eyes, all those who sat in front of me in the first row and beside me on my right hand side. I tried to stand up and walk towards the main gate, at the same time I saw the principal of the SOS Nursing School running. Then I called him and he came back to assist me up to the main gate.

The injured are ferried to hospital

The SOS Hospital is one of very few remaining clinics in Mogadishu where especially children and mothers are treated for at very low costs - Photo: SOS Archives We were taken to Medina Hospital in a big bus belonging to Banadir University, there were no ambulances! When we reached the hospital, it was already overcrowded. The hospital was in disarray. A surgeon examined me and said "You were very lucky, we will do observation". They did a medical dressing and gave an intravenous infusion.

After three hours in observation, I decided to go with a taxi to the SOS Hospital where our medical staff redressed my wounds very carefully and gave me antibiotics and an anti-tetanus injection (which was not given to me when at Medina Hospital, because of the many injured who needed help). I was planning to go to Nairobi the next day for further treatment and to remove the multiple fragments in my abdomen. At the same time, a department of the UN (I don't know which) in Somalia was organising to take all injured people to Nairobi the next day.

Airlifted to Nairobi

We were airlifted from Mogadishu to Nairobi, 19 of us. One of the very badly injured was the Minister for Sports who was in coma. The rest were all graduating students and five doctors. We were brought to hospital in Nairobi and admitted for ten days, and they removed something from my right eye, dressed my wound and immobilized my fractured hand. Dr Tahlil was also injured and lost his right eye and they removed the fragments from his face, head and hands at the hospital. After ten days in Nairobi, the Somali government organised to move all the victims of the suicide bombing to Saudi Arabia.

I was admitted to King Saud University Hospital in Riyadh in the department of plastic surgery. There, they removed all the fragments in my abdomen, and treated all the wounds, and my shattered eardrums. The medical staff there treated me well and I made a good recovery. Now I am ready to go back to work at the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu. I am feeling very well to go back to Mogadishu after the bomb blast. I am not scared. I know only one thing, every person must die one day but I don't now where and when it will happen.

It's my turn to help

I will continue to work in Mogadishu, even though I have many opportunities to work in many other places throughout the world. Innocent and vulnerable people, especially women and children, still remain inside Somalia in insecure places. They don't have enough food, clean water, permanent shelter and a primary health service. I want to add value to these people. I also know I need to help them because all my studies were done in Mogadishu and it was free, meaning it was from tax payers' money. So now is my turn to help. I hope one day Somalia will be safe where anyone can come in at any one time and also live peacefully. I pray that peace comes quickly to the Somali people.

I want to thank all the people and organisations who still work in Somalia in this situation. I would like to say "thanks" to SOS Children's Villages International for working in Somalia and not evacuating since the war began, not forgetting all those teaching in schools and in universities. Thank you."

March 2010