As the COVID-19 pandemic landed in Somalia in mid-March, there was rampant anxiety about how the country with one of the most fragile health systems could handle a pandemic that was wreaking havoc in wealthy nations.
There was fear among local communities that the pandemic could add another layer of tragedies that had befallen the Horn of Africa nation over the years.
Likewise, the international community was concerned the pandemic could erode gains made in the recovery process amid dwindling resources.
But there was a section of the citizenry that had no time to worry and had to face the pandemic head-on — the medical doctors.
These were extraordinary moments that called for extraordinary courage and fortitude.
As for Ibrahim Hussein Ali, a medical doctor trained in China, it was time to put into use his skills and experience gained over the years.
Important for him was the humongous task of inspiring confidence on fellow doctors and encouraging them to soldier on despite the novelty of the disease and the scarcity of medical facilities.
Until recently, Ali was the director of medical services in the only COVID-19 dedicated hospital in Somalia called De Martini.
“During the period of April to June 2020, it was a hectic and intense situation to handle since the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 was at its climax with almost everyone in Mogadishu complaining of similar symptoms of COVID-19,” Ali told Xinhua during a recent interview in Mogadishu.
His monumental task involved isolating him from his family for two months as more patients were brought into the facility.
Some patients left the facility alive but others succumbed to the pandemic and the virus dealt a blow to the poorly equipped facility grappling with a shortage of drugs and intensive care unit ventilators.
“My medical training in China really came in handy,” Ali said.
“I had got the exposure to handling severe cases and the use of sophisticated machines like ventilators while at medical school in China,” he added.
Like stories documented in many other parts of the world, Martini’s was no different since health workers were at risk of exposure to the disease.
Ali was at some point taken down by COVID-19 and the dedicated medic became a patient.
Luckily, he recovered and soldiered on leading a team of doctors and medical workers who too, were facing similar challenges.
Thanks to donations from the Chinese government and the Chinese business magnate and philanthropist Jack Ma, the tide was changing.
“We got support from China and I would like to thank the Chinese people and the government on behalf of the Somali people and doctors that fought COVID-19 in Somalia,” said Ali.
“Those kits were very helpful especially for those patients with severe respiratory distress that needed ventilator support,” he added.
The donations in the form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) were critical in protecting the medical workers from contracting the disease, according to Ali.
He recently left De Martini following a significant decline in COVID-19 cases and encouraged Somali students to study in China to learn lessons from the pandemic on how important it is to return and give back to their motherland.
“Study hard, gain as much knowledge as possible from China and come back and join us in the fight against COVID-19 so that we can defeat this deadly pandemic,” said Ali.
His selfless contribution coupled with support from China and other countries as well as the local private sector has contributed to bringing down the COVID-19 caseload in Somalia.
Statistics from Somalia’s ministry of health indicates the country had 3,390 cases and 2,812 recoveries.