Tuesday, October 31, 2017

MPH Tuition Scholarship for displaced Somalia, South Sudan, Afghanistan, or Syria Student

Institution Contactmphprog@jhu.edu
Level of Study: Graduate
Fields of Study: School of Public Health.
Scholarship Award Amount: Full tuition for the 11-month program of study
Approximate Funding Gap to be filled by student: Housing, travel, and living assistance
Award Duration: 11 months for Master of Public Health (MPH) graduate program
Number of Awards Available: One
Application Deadline: December 1, 2017
Application Requirements:
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has launched a scholarship program to support one individual who has been displaced due to the conflicts in Syria, South Sudan, Afghanistan, or Somalia. These students will receive full tuition, while pursuing a Master of Public Health graduate degree at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) in conjunction with the Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health.
Applicants must have been displaced by the conflict in:
  • Syria and currently residing in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan or Turkey, or residing under Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.
  • South Sudan and currently residing in Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan or Uganda, or residing under Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.
  • Somalia and currently residing in Kenya or Ethiopia, or residing under Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.
  • Afghanistan and currently residing in Pakistan or Iran, or residing under Temporary Protected Status in the U.S.
Students will begin their studies in July 2018.
JHSPH requires a minimum TOEFL score of 100 or IELTS score of 7.0.
Applications are due by December 1, 2017, and all required materials are due by January 31, 2018.
International Applicants from Afghanistan, South Sudan and Somalia can apply for waivers for the SOPHAS application
Applicants must notify the Scholarship Program of their desire to be considered for the scholarship by e-mailing:  mphprog@jhu.edu

Monday, October 30, 2017

A Dentist is Among Those Who Show Their Entrepreneurial Spirit in Somaliland

In the sprawling market of Somaliland’s capital city, Hargeisa, women clad in headscarves or abaya shawls from head to foot engage in volatile haggling with shoppers, and woe betide any man that crosses them – the volume becomes deafening.

Somaliland’s religious conservativism – sharia law is included in its constitution – co-exists with many signs of a typically liberal free market society, a dynamic embodied by Somaliland women’s active role in the local economy.

“I really wish the rest of the world would pass over what women are wearing and focus on what women are contributing to the community and country,” says 29-year-old Dr. Zainab, relaxing in a Hargeisa café in the evening after her day job as a dentist.
 Somaliland’s women are part of a strong entrepreneurial tradition in the country, a result of its declaration of independence from Somalia in 1991 not being recognised by the international community.

The self-declared republic had to go it alone in rebuilding after the devastation of the preceding civil war. Private business and entrepreneurs played a critical role in lieu of international assistance, which has remained largely absent.

Today in Somaliland, many small businesses are run by women, who in addition to bringing up large numbers of children are often breadwinners for families whose husbands are physically or mentally scarred by the war. 
“Here women are butchers – that doesn’t happen in many places. It shows you how tough they are,” Dr. Zainab says.

Homemakers and more
“Before there was no factory like this one,” says Amina Adan, who began her company Tayo Uniforms to make school uniforms. “Now we are also making uniforms for private companies like Somcable, which lays fibre optic cables, and the petroleum companies starting to come here.”
In addition to the factory offering a locally produced alternative to the previous norm of cheap Chinese imports, it has created more than 45 jobs – taking on further part-time staff during peak production periods. The country has a chronic unemployment problem: about 75% of youth are unemployed.

Somaliland’s women are particularly active in trading khat, the wildly popular plant whose leaves when chewed provide a mildly narcotic buzz, which is indulged in by about 90% of the country’s adult male population.

“Business is good,” says Zahre, a so-called khat mamma of 22 years who runs a stall in central Hargeisa. Originally she owned a shop and small café but decided to enter the khat trade as a way to expand her business prospects, she explains. Other women had less choice.

“Many entered the khat business after the civil war as the only way to earn money to provide for their families,” Zahre says. “After they started doing it, they knew how to do it well – so they continued. An unaccountable number of women now sell khat.”
Limits to freedom
While Somaliland’s women may be free to exert entrepreneurial prowess, they are not so free in other areas of society. 
“Without a women’s quota I don’t think there will be any more women in parliament as they won’t win an election,” says Baar Saed Farah, the only female in the 82-member lower chamber of parliament (no women are permitted in the 82-member upper chamber).
“In normal employment they do not differentiate between gender but when it comes to political participation it becomes very difficult for women because of a culture that favours men; it has been there for a long time – even women may not accept a woman to run for election as they’re so used to men always leading and making decisions.”
Furthermore, while women are a force to be reckoned with as street-side traders, that masks limits to further economic opportunities. 
“They only operate small businesses, you won’t find many rich business women here,” says Nafisa Yusuf Mohamed, director of the female empowerment organisation Nagaad Network. “For now there aren’t many alternatives, but this could change as enrolment in higher education is improving.”

Islamic conservatism
Some Somalilanders express concern about a steady drift toward Islamic conservatism affecting both women and society at large. Traditional colourful Somali robes that used to be worn by women are increasingly being replaced by black abayas.

More women wear full face veils, and no women go about Hargeisa bareheaded as happened in the 1970s. Meanwhile, music no longer blares out from tea shops, while working hours in the public and private sectors increasingly have to accommodate mosque prayer times.
“There are problems for women here but they’re not due to religion, rather they are Somali cultural problems,” says Khadar Husein, operational director of the Hargeisa office of Transparency Solutions, an international organisation focused on capacity building in civil society.
“The man is mainly dominant in Somali society – things like domestic violence go back to culture. Getting a more religious society means eliminating those cultural problems; religion has actually given women more freedom.”

Certainly, many Somaliland women say covering up is a free choice out of respect for their religion, or give more prosaic reasons such as feeling shy, wanting to protect skin from harsh sunlight or to fit in with friends’ sartorial choices. Other observers, however, counter that it is precisely because of Somaliland’s conservative restrictions that women don’t feel able or comfortable to comment otherwise.

No lack of confidence 
Either way, speaking to Somaliland women there’s little to suggest they lack confidence or feel curtailed.
 “The West needs to stop obsessing about what women are wearing – whether those in the West who are wearing less or those in the East who are wearing more,” Zainab says. 
“It’s about what’s inside your head, and certainly not what’s over your head.”

James Jeffrey

Friday, October 27, 2017

Somali Grocery Store in Phoenix Which Sells Halal and Nutritional Foods Repeatedly Rejected

Mohamed Ahmed stocks shelves at Phoenix Mini Mart, the grocery store that he owns.

Mohamed Ahmed has gotten to the point where he just hands out food for free.
Ahmed owns Phoenix Mini Market, a small African grocery store. Many of his customers are new refugees and receive vouchers from WIC — short for the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children — which can only be used to purchase specific grocery items such as eggs, milk, and fresh vegetables.
Ahmed can’t accept those vouchers as form of payment. He’s applied repeatedly to the Arizona Department of Health Services, but the store has failed inspection each time — a bone of contention for the Somali Association of Arizona, which feels that the state could do more to help small businesses become part of the program.
But when families show up clutching their WIC checks, Ahmed often can’t bring himself to turn them away.
Figuring out exactly which foods you can buy with WIC vouchers is challenging under the best of circumstances. (Cheese is allowed, for instance, but not cream cheese.) And good luck trying to find someone at Safeway or Bashas' who can translate Somali or Arabic.

So refugees fill up their carts, head to the checkout, and then get told they can’t use their vouchers on the specific groceries they’ve selected.
“They come back here and say, ‘No one helped us,’” Ahmed explained in a recent interview.
He can’t take their vouchers, but he can give them some baby food to take home with them. It’s not much of a long-term solution, but for right now, it’s all he can do.
In order to receive WIC benefits, you have to either be pregnant or have kids under the age of 5 at home — and have an income that falls well below the poverty line.
Using that metric, more than half the women, infants, and children in Arizona are eligible to receive WIC benefits, according to the Department of Health Services.
But the actual enrollment numbers are significantly smaller than that, coming out to a current total of about 140,000 people.
Crucially, WIC doesn’t require proof of U.S. citizenship, unlike SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (which is what most people think of when they hear the words “food stamps.”) And Arizona residents who were born outside the United States are statistically more likely to have incomes below the federal poverty line.

SNAP is still the much-larger program. The number of Arizona residents enrolled in SNAP hovers just short of 1 million people. It’s also accepted at a wider variety of stores, meaning it’s easier for participants to actually use their benefits.
Over 4,000 stores in Arizona allow customers to pay with SNAP. Just 600 accept WIC.
Most of the stores that do accept WIC are major national retailers like Walmart, Albertsons, Safeway, and Fry’s. Or they’re the local equivalents, like Bashas' and Ranch Market.
Small, independent grocery stores — which often cater to specific immigrant communities — rarely show up on the list.
Out of 322 stores in Maricopa County that accept WIC checks, only 29 aren’t part of a chain.
Phoenix New Times contacted a variety of tiendas, carnicerias, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern grocery stores, and other local markets that are missing from the list.
Their reasons for not accepting WIC varied. Some store managers in more affluent areas had never heard of the program, or said that they hadn’t had customers ask to pay with WIC checks.
Others weren’t clear on what WIC was, or how it differs from SNAP. Some found the requirements to be too much of a hassle, or didn’t want to carry the specific items that can be purchased with WIC.
And then there's people like Mohamed Ahmed.
In 2014, Ahmed purchased the Phoenix Mini Market, which is located at 5050 East McDowell Road in the shadow of the red rocks of Papago Park. It sits in an otherwise unremarkable strip mall that’s become a sort of mini-Mogadishu: there’s a Somali tax preparer, a Somali immigration lawyer, a store selling traditional clothing and Islamic books, a phone store where just about all the employees and customers are Somali, a Somali restaurant, and two competing Somali cafes.
Despite its generic-sounding name, the Phoenix Mini Market bears little resemblance to a typical convenience store: The shelves are stocked with berbere seasoning, dates, Kenyan tea, 25-pound bags of teff flour, basmati rice, fava beans, ghee, injera, mint sharbat, camel and goat meat, shea butter, frozen gulab jamun, and phone cards for calling Africa.

The store had accepted WIC checks when Ahmed bought it, but the change in ownership meant that he had to re-apply. There was a mandatory one-year waiting period before he could do that. In the meantime, he got approved to accept SNAP benefits so that customers could pay with their EBT cards.
WIC was another story. Ahmed’s first application was rejected because he only had six types of fresh vegetables (the minimum is seven), four types of dairy products (the minimum is five), three types of bread and tortillas (the minimum is four), four types of cereal (the minimum is five), and six types of fruit (the minimum is seven). He decided to try again.
In order to pass inspection, he stocked up on American foods like cornflakes and tortillas, which his customers weren’t likely to buy unless they could use their WIC checks. There wasn’t much extra shelf space in the store — which is roughly the size of a Circle K — but he did his best to make it work.
The second time around, DHS failed him because he still only had four types of cereal in stock. Additionally, the inspectors wrote, “Fresh meat is not identified and not able to determine unit size.”
The price list was displayed on top of the meat counter, Ahmed said. The inspectors hadn’t marked it as a problem when they’d come to the store the previous time. But he went out and ordered an extra-large sign displaying the prices for goat legs and lamb shanks, and hung it over the meat counter.
He reapplied, waited, and went through the mandatory training again. A year had now passed since his initial application. On his third try, he passed inspection in every category. Except for the meat.
“Fresh meat is not labeled,” the inspector’s report said.
As it turned out, the prices were supposed to be posted at the level of the meat — so the giant sign he’d just bought didn’t count for anything.
“They told me that it has to be right on the meat,” Ahmed recalled. “Can you believe it?”
He filed an appeal. It took months to get a hearing. Finally, in June, the Department of Health Services agreed to come and inspect the store again.
That time, though, they found more problems. The temperature inside the freezer cases was between 12 and 19 degrees, when it should have been at 0 degrees, the state’s inspectors explained in a letter. (Ahmed disputes this.) As a result, he’d failed the frozen juice category.
The list went on. The bread that he had in stock was wheat bread, not 100 percent whole wheat bread. A jar of Gerber apples that he’d purchased in order to pass a previous inspection had expired, but was still on the shelf. Packages of San Lucia spaghetti had expired in January 2016.
Ahmed also disputes this last charge. “January 2016 is the manufacture date,” he said. He believes that the inspectors were just looking for reasons to fail him.
The whole saga ended up driving a wedge between the Somali community at 5050 East McDowell Road, and the Department of Health Services.
“It really looks like a trend, like they’re trying to make it harder for small businesses,” said Muktar Sheikh, the program coordinator for the Somali Association of Arizona, which is located in the same strip mall.
Other Somali-owned grocery stores have had similar experiences, he said. Many of them are no longer in business.
“There’s a demand — our community members want to use this program. That’s why Mohamed is fighting for it. So why, instead of helping him, do they find something wrong every time he comes in here?”
Celia Nabor, Arizona’s WIC director, insists that isn’t the case.
“I couldn't tell you what stores are Somalian-owned stores,” she said. “So it's not that we've created unfair rules for any particular group. I know from the complaints we receive that they identify as being Somalian stores, but we don't collect the race and ethnicity of a store owner.”
Nor are small businesses subject to special scrutiny, she added. “I can't favor small mom-and-pop stores over large chain stores, and vice versa. I can't favor a Kroger over a corner store.”

The goal of the inspection process, as Nabor describes it, is to ensure that grocers aren’t overcharging WIC customers and that they actually have WIC-approved foods in stock. It’s also intended to minimize the risk of fraud.
The myriad guidelines issued by both state and federal agencies attempt to impose a sense of consistency between stores.
That’s why injera, the bread that’s part of the daily diet in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia, doesn’t count as bread for the purposes of the WIC program.
The reasoning? Bread has to be 100 percent whole wheat, and injera is made from teff, a grain native to Ethiopia and Eritrea.
Stuff like that isn’t what bothers Muktar Sheikh of the Somali Association of Arizona, though.
“For us, the big issue is that the store can pass all the requirements, but one minor requirement can fail the store,” he said, giving the meat-signage problem as an example. “Then the store has to wait six months to get another inspection.”
In his view, the state DHS could do more to help small-business owners qualify for the program.
“They should encourage local community grocery stores to provide WIC, not make it hard for them to get the certification. It’s sad that DHS isn’t engaging with these stores in order to make sure our communities have access to healthy food. These big grocery chains aren’t accessible for families.”
He pointed out that low-income families are supposed to be able to use their WIC vouchers to purchase fresh meat. But many Middle Eastern and African refugees only eat halal meat that adheres to Islamic dietary laws — which most mainstream grocery stores don’t carry.
And the stores that do carry halal meat, like Phoenix Mini Market and Baiz Marketplace, generally don’t accept WIC. It’s just one example, from his perspective, of how the program is failing at its mission.
“If they’re really trying to help people, this is not the way to do it,” he said.

Source: Phoenix New Times 

Sunday, October 22, 2017

London-trained Somali nurse helps deliver 22,000 babies

London-trained Edna Adan teaches new nurses midwifery skills at her maternity hospital in Somaliland
Yet she traded it all in for civil war, hyena attacks and water in buckets as she followed her dream to open the first maternity hospital in her native Somalia. 
In 2002, nearly 50 years since she began training at Borough Polytechnic, now London South Bank University, she achieved her ambition by opening Edna Adan maternity hospital in what is now Somaliland. 
In its 15 years nearly 22,000 babies have been delivered.
“The first one was born eight hours after we opened,” she said.
I love nursing. I had to introduce nursing and midwifery to my country and start training midwives. Today families come to me and say we want our daughters to be like you
Edna Adan
“It’s the hospital that took my whole life to build.” 
Ms Adan told Desert Island Discs how her father, a doctor, inspired her love of health. 
She said: “I used to hang around the hospital and give him a hand. He was my hero, still is. I’ll never be as compassionate as he was.” 
She came to London on a scholarship in the 50s. 
Her maternity training involved cycling to help out at deliveries.
She lived here for seven years, becoming the first Somali girl to study in Britain “and proud of it”. 
In 1961 she returned home as the first qualified nurse and midwife in the country, and the first woman to hold a driving licence.
She said: “I love nursing. I had to introduce nursing and midwifery to my country and start training midwives. Today families come to me and say we want our daughters to be like you.” Somalia Terror Attack
Married three times, her first husband was prime minister of Somalia, Muhammad Haji Ibrahim Egal.
Ms Adan, 80, was foreign minister from 2003 until 2006. 
For her songs, she chose Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Happy by Pharrell Williams.
She picked vegetable seeds as her luxury item and her book was Half The Sky by Nicholas Kristof.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Billionaire's Gift: Michael Jordan donated $7 Million to Build Two Medical Clinics for the Poor People

Hornets owner Michael Jordan is donating $7 million to launch two medical clinics in troubled Charlotte communities, in one of the largest gifts ever from the basketball legend with deep ties to North Carolina.
Novant Health is expected on Monday to announce Jordan’s personal gift, which will fund Novant Health Michael Jordan Family Clinics to be built in north and northwest Charlotte. One will be at 3149 and 3153 Freedom Drive; the other will be in the Brightwalk development on Statesville Avenue.
Officials said the clinics will target a crescent-shaped region, hugging roughly an area north of uptown’s skyscrapers, home to some of the city’s densest concentrations of poverty. Opening of the clinics is projected for late 2020.
Jordan spokeswoman Estee Portnoy said Jordan began having conversations with Winston-Salem-based Novant – for years the Hornets’ official health care provider – about 16 months ago as he sought ways to help poor populations in Charlotte.
She said Jordan was largely spurred by a 2014 study from Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley that found poor children in Charlotte have the worst odds of those in any big U.S. city to lift themselves out of poverty. That report, which stunned many in the community, led to the creation of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg task force charged with identifying ways to address the city’s economic-mobility problems.

“Michael really wanted to do something personally, he and his family, in the North Carolina area, separate from the work we’ve done with the Hornets,” Portnoy said, adding that the idea for the clinics specifically emerged during the Novant discussions.
In a statement, Jordan said he was proud to partner with Novant
 “to bring critical health services to under-served areas of Charlotte and the thousands of North Carolinians with limited access to health care.”
Jordan said he hoped the clinics “will help provide a brighter and healthier future for the children and families they serve.”
The gift comes from one of the greatest players in NBA history, who grew up in Wilmington and attended UNC-Chapel Hill. Jordan hit the winning shot in the Tar Heels’ 1982 national championship victory over Georgetown.
Jordan, 54, is the only former NBA player with majority ownership of a franchise. He purchased control of the Hornets from founding owner Bob Johnson in March 2010, after four seasons as part of the ownership group.
Though his primary residence is in Florida, Jordan considers Charlotte his second home, Portnoy said. Jordan has purchased two homes in the Charlotte area – a condominium in uptown Charlotte and an estate on Lake Norman. In Florida, he owns a mansion in the town of Jupiter. Jordan also owns property in Utah.
On Friday, Jordan made an appearance in Charlotte at the dedication of the renovated Tuckaseegee Park, along with Hornets President Fred Whitfield.
It is not a surprise that public health would be a cause Jordan would choose to support. The Hornets’ corporate social responsibility department identified wellness as a key issue in Charlotte, along with education, hunger and support of the military and youth programs.
Novant has been the official health care provider for the Hornets since the inception of the franchise in 2004, when they were known as the Charlotte Bobcats. Novant (and previously Presbyterian) is the naming sponsor for the Hornets’ practice gym, inside Spectrum Center. Novant united hospitals operating under the Presbyterian name to the Novant brand in 2013.
“Michael’s been a wonderful partner for us at Novant Health,” CEO Carl Armato said in an Observer interview.
“This is not the first time that he personally has had such a dedication and commitment to the community and to our patients.”
Armato said the donation will help accelerate Novant’s ability “to provide remarkable care in some of these areas that have been under-served.”
Novant said the two clinics will offer not only family physicians and pediatricians, but also behavioral health, physical therapy, social work, oral health and family-planning services.
Such a wide menu of services makes the clinics unlike anything else owned by Novant, said Dr. Michael Hoben, who leads Novant’s primary-care clinics in the Charlotte region.
Hoben, citing findings from a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Opportunity Task Force report this year, said lack of access to health care has been a key factor behind Charlotte’s economic-mobility challenges. One way the clinics will seek to lower costs for patients, Hoben said, is by helping those who qualify for government programs such as Medicaid to sign up for them.

It is estimated that, over five years, the Jordan clinics will care for nearly 35,000 children and adults who currently don’t have access to primary and preventive care or who use the emergency room for non-urgent medical needs, according to Novant calculations. The clinics have the potential to decrease emergency room use by 68 percent and decrease hospitalization by 37 percent for the residents of those neighborhoods, according to Novant.
Portnoy, the Jordan spokeswoman, said the gift ranks among the biggest charitable gifts from Jordan, whose recent donations include $5 million last year for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Forbes estimates Jordan’s net worth at approximately $1.4 billion. A major division of Nike is Jordan Brand, built around the popularity of Air Jordan shoes and apparel. Jordan Brand sponsors the Hornets, with a “Jumpman” logo on uniforms this season.
Jordan has become more public of late in both speaking out on social issues and philanthropic works.
In July of 2016, he wrote on The Undefeated website about African-Americans dying at the hands of law enforcement and also the targeting of violence against police officers. Jordan at the time pledged a $1 million contribution each to the NAACP Defense Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relations.
Jordan has since addressed the topic of inclusion, regarding the since-rescinded North Carolina House Bill 2. He also released a statement to the Observer on the value of free expression after President Donald Trump criticized NFL players who chose not to stand for the national anthem before games.
It’s not uncommon for major-league sports franchises to have deals with health care providers. Novant’s chief rival, Charlotte-based Carolinas HealthCare System, has been associated with the Carolina Panthers since that team’s beginnings in the mid-1990s. Retired NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon’s name is on a Carolinas HealthCare System children’s hospital in Concord.
The heft of Jordan’s name is not lost on Jesse Cureton, Novant’s chief consumer officer, who noted that others “would love to have an iconic person like Michael select them.”
“They would pay him,” Cureton said. “For him to select us to partner in this way, and he’s never done this before, we’re pretty proud.”

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Daryeel Dumar Hospital: A Place Where Women Can Get Services Provided by only Female Doctors and Nurses

Dr. Sumaya Elmi Duhulow
Mogadishu - Maternal healthcare advocate Dr. Sumaya Elmi Duhulow, an Obstetrician/Gynecologist, is the brain behind one of Somalia’s foremost and exclusive reproductive health facilities.
Located in Mogadishu’s Yaaqshid district, Daryeel Dumar Hospital, which loosely means “Women Care”, opened its doors to the public in August.
“The idea behind this hospital, was to find a place where women can get services provided by only female doctors and nurses,” explains Dr. Sumaya, who partnered with two midwives to establish the hospital. She adds that they decided to set up the facility out of a need to reduce the high maternal death rates in Somalia.
The hospital offers maternity, pre- and post-natal care, and serves as a one-stop facility for female patients. Launched two months ago, it is fulfilling the quest for an all female hospital, which was long sought after by women.
“We knew traditionally, women would prefer to be attended to by female doctors, to preserve their modesty, especially during delivery,” Dr. Sumaya remarks.
The facility has been a benefit to women in Mogadishu. Since becoming operational, Daryeel Dumar has registered a steady increase in hospital visits, especially among pregnant women and carries out an average of 14 safe deliveries per month. Dr. Sumaya says the hospital has contributed to a significant drop in maternal deaths.
Born 31 years ago in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Somali parents, the single mother of three relocated to Somalia in 2003, where she studied Medicine and Surgery, and graduated from Banadir University in 2010.
She volunteer in the health sector soon after graduating. Her aim was to help improve conditions in her country’s health sector, which bore the brunt of two decades of civil war. She worked as a volunteer doctor at SOS Hospital in the capital for five years, before pursuing other opportunities.
“I have a passion to help others and that’s why I chose to study medicine,” says Dr. Sumaya, who also works as a part time Obstetrician and Gynecologist at the Mogadishu City Hospital and the University of Somalia Teaching Hospital.
Her passion to improve the reproductive health status of Somali women, has been her driving force and motivation. Dr. Sumaya says she is committed to continue practising medicine in her country.
A pioneer in the health sector, Dr. Sumaya believes each person has a role to play in transforming Somalia.
“The problems facing Somalia are multifaceted, but most affected sectors are health, education and security. I believe everyone has a role to play in normalizing the situation,” she noted.
The all-female hospital is a step in the right direction for Somalia, where women crave for similar services but still lack access to more facilities across the country, however, Dr. Sumaya encourages women to take up professional jobs to fill the existing gap.
“The advice I have for Somali young girls is to follow their dreams and strive to do whatever they aspire to, whether in skilled or professional careers,” she says. “Women need to be encouraged, motivated and sensitized”.


Monday, October 9, 2017

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Tending to Heal Neglected Wounds in Somalia

Prof. Lori Zoellner teaching a child with graduate student. Photo credit to University of Washington

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is just what the name implies: an overwhelming, often debilitating anxiety that follows a traumatic event in someone’s life. It could be the death of a loved one, a physical assault, or really anything you might find traumatising. Many associate PTSD with soldiers returning from war, but for thousands living in Somalia, there is no escape from the near-constant conflict that’s plagued the North African country for over two decades.
“People are frightened by killings, diseases, and hunger,” international studies professor Daniel Chirot said.

Somalia’s government collapsed in 1991, leading to infighting between regional clans. The current central leadership is weak, and cannot effectively enforce their laws in large portions of the country. This power vacuum led to regional fighting, extremism, and an untold number of human rights violations against the Somali people. As expected, PTSD rates are high in Somalia, but traditional Islamic beliefs, language and cultural differences, and limited access to care are holding sufferers back from seeking help. 

A team of UW psychologists and behavioral scientists recently won a grant through the Population Health Initiative, which awarded five pilot research grants to faculty-led teams to address a human-centered issue in global health. 

They are aiming to develop an effective and low-cost PTSD treatment within community mosques in Somalia. According to the researchers, no Islamic-focused trauma treatments currently exist. 
“Mental health is a new thing to the world,” Chirot said. 
“In the past, there was no such thing as mental health and most traditional cultures consider mental issues as your family’s own business.” 
This team has been working with the Somali Reconciliation Institute for about five years. The founder and director of the SRI, Duniya Lang, approached UW psychology professor and team member Lori Zoellner about creating a program to promote trauma-focused reconciliation within the Somali community.

“We want to develop a program that fits with the Islamic faith and also with the Somali culture,” Zoellner said.
Their approach to healing is a brief series of community-led meetings in mosques around the country. Faith leaders and community members lead group discussions on Islamic trauma healing for six sessions.

“We are not viewing this as a therapy,”  Zoellner said. “It is about promoting healing and reconciliation. We worked hard to put in Islamic principles and so every session begins with a supplication written by the local Imam and tea and snacks. Tea is very important in Somali culture as far as building community and having tea together.”
Men and women are separated into groups in hopes of making each more comfortable during the session. Group leaders read prophet narratives from the Quran and discuss how they relate to shifts in thinking and beliefs people experience after a traumatic event. 
There is also individual time of Doha, in which they have time to talk to Allah about their trauma experience and pray. 

“In lower and middle income countries, it is very unlikely for them to train hundreds or thousands of mental health workers in a short time,”  Zoellner said. “If we want programs that have a reach for promoting trauma healing, it really needs to shift to the community and to lay-leaders so that the interventions don’t involve mental health professionals, but to involve people who are respected in their communities.”
Their biggest obstacle is funding, so grants like the Population Health Initiative make their fieldwork in Somalia possible. The team also partnered with Abu-Bakr Islamic center, and received funding from the National Institute of Mental Health as well as the Global Population Health grant that enabled the team to begin this intervention in Somalia. They hope to expand this Islamic based treatment method to the global Muslim community in the near future.

“The greatest value I see in the project is that it is community based,” co-investigator Jake Bentley said. “Once lay-leaders are trained, they can benefit their own communities and they can train other lay-leaders as well. Once it works, it will be a self-sustaining intervention.”