Jowhar, 25 years of INTERSOS in Somalia and counting
In 2018, INTERSOS guaranteed access to health facilities to more than 350,000 people in one of the most difficult areas of the Horn of Africa. Since 1993, we have been supporting populations with education, prevention and humanitarian protection programmes to reconnect the threads of solidarity.
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Let’s look at the pictures taken in Somalia today and think about how many of them have been taken since March 15, 1993, when Jowhar Regional Hospital started to be operational with INTERSOS’ support. In the Middle Shebelle region, more than 25 years ago, began the first and longest mission of our humanitarian organisation. For decades now, women, men and children in Somalia have been suffering from the effects of civil war, internal conflict, political instability, social exclusion and marginalization. In the last year alone, almost 900,000 people have left the country to reach Kenya, Ethiopia and Yemen.
Today, among the codes used to identify each mission in the organisation’s database, projects in Somalia are preceded by the code 02, while 01 indicates our humanitarian protection programmes in Italy. Unfortunately, each one of these codes corresponds to a crisis. And actually, this is still our first mission, a presence that, uninterruptedly, is confirmed as part of Intersos’ curriculum.
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For more than 25 years, we have been able to ensure continuity in assisting people with medical care and humanitarian protection, by being alongside the population, which is exhausted by famine, drought, fightings, lootings and civil war. We are extremely proud to present the results we achieved in these years, however, this pride is accompanied by a crude and tragic reality: today, in Somalia there are still more than two millions internally displaced persons and the country is hit by different humanitarian crises, which alternate or cyclically come back.
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Our organisation took charge of the hospital in Jowhar after a handover by the Italian contingent of the Ibis mission. Intersos continues to operate in Southern Somalia, where human rights have been systematically violated for decades and where the destiny of thousands of people is bound to the presence of public facilities, able to ensure access to medical care and sanitation.
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The hospital in Jowhar has become a point of reference, a health service “open to everyone” in a region where the need for humanitarian protection is high, given the dramatic effects of civil war, forced marriages, gender violence, epidemics, the high number of unaccompanied minors exposed to abuse, exploitation and their active and direct involvement in conflict.
There are several indicators of this emergency: on average, in the region, women at the age of eighteen have already given birth to two children and in 50% of the cases newborns do not have basic vaccinations and cases of mortality due to cholera are dramatically increasing.
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Citing Hassan Mahad Abdi, Field Coordinator in Jowhar, we are speaking of a 1km² compound and a 3-floor hospital “which have provided care and medicines even in the most critical periods and which never have ceased their operations, even under bombardments”. While efforts to stabilize humanitarian crises seemed to have melted like snow in the sun, especially in 2008, when Jowhar became the scene of fierce fightings that led to the evacuation of international staff, “the presence of our humanitarian organisation has continued to make a difference in the lives of thousands of Somalis”.
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In spite of everything, today in Jowhar there are 93 beds and more than 65 operators, in a facility that operates with a range of more than 60 km and that supplies two mobile clinics. The hospital is the centre of a health network that has been created with active projects in the districts of Jowhar, Balcad, Hawadley and Warsheik. In total, in 2018, the hospital assisted more than 350,000 people. Between June and December 2018, more than 1,600 patients were urgently operated, and more than 2900 cases of chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes were treated. In addition to the 3812 cases of malnutrition and respiratory problems, more than 1500 patients from the surrounding villages were treated by INTERSOS ambulances in Jowhar.
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“You ask me if and how the Somalis’ perception of our work has changed over time. In 25 years Intersos has carried out countless programmes, from the construction of primary schools to the prevention and treatment of epidemics, from professional trainings to the protection of minors, from the fight against gender violence to programmes to ensure access to drinking water … You know – goes on Hassan – boys who graduated in Mogadishu come back to work in Jowhar because they were lucky enough to start studying with Intersos.”
Flavia Melillo
Flavia Melillo

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