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SOS Children mourns inspirational Somali Doctor

Dr. Abdullahi Hussein
Dr. Abdullahi Hussein

Dr. Abdullahi Hussein, a Somali-born doctor who dedicated his life to providing medical care for his own population, suffered a fatal stroke in Mogadishu on April 13, 2012, at just 50 years old. He passed away just before a planned trip to see his wife and children in England.

Dr. Abdullahi had been the Director of the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu since 2007 and led efforts to provide medical services to the people of north Mogadishu in spite of years of security threats in the surrounding area.

After studying in his native Somalia, Dr. Abdullahi lived and pursued his education in Italy and England, where his postgraduate studies in paediatrics enabled him to set up a medical practice in the UK. He felt uneasy looking from afar at the suffering in his homeland. “I can’t sit here in England while my compatriots in Somalia are dying”, he said. As a result, he closed his practice and returned to Somalia in 2005. He said at the time: “Here it’s about life and death. When you do something here, you sleep better at night. This is a place where I can really make a difference.”

Dr. Abdullahi began working at the SOS Hospital, which opened in 1989. The practice is one of few hospitals that serve a city of 1.2 million residents, including thousands of refugees in need of medical care. The hospital specialises in maternity and pediatric care and is the only hospital in Somalia that treats people free of charge.

As head physician of the SOS Mother and Child Clinic at the hospital, Dr. Abdullahi and his staff had to flee the clinic several times when it got in the line of fire between the transitional government and rebel troops. Dr. Abdullahi himself was wounded during a suicide bombing at a graduation ceremony for Banadir University medical students in December 2009. He spent three months recovering, before returning to work at the hospital. In spite of the danger, Dr. Abdullahi and his team always refused to be taken out of the country. “But we have to take care of the people here” was always their reply, “who will take care of the children and mothers while we’re gone?”

Dr. Abdullahi passed away just before a planned trip to see his wife and family in England. Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children International, described Dr. Abdullahi as a man who “worked tirelessly for the children and mothers of this ravaged country who could not be deterred from his mission even in situations of great danger. His death leaves a gaping void. We will miss him very, very much”.