Unnoticed Health Crisis – Renal Failure in Somalia

A report released by the Danish Ministry of Immigration and Integration in 2020 on the Somali Health System stated that 5.7% of the Somali population suffers from chronic diseases, including Kidney disease.

Somalia does not have any hospitals that are capable of providing services such as kidney transplants, but there are, however, general hospitals with renal departments that are able to provide treatment for people with kidney failure. These hospitals are only available in major cities, including Mogadishu, which also happens to be the largest city in the country with the highest incidence of kidney disease, especially renal failure.

In southern and central Somalia, Mogadishu is the only city that provides dialysis facilities, of which there are four. The former Digfer Hospital, now formally known as the Somali-Turkish Hospital, currently 230 patients are receiving dialysis treatment. There are other dialysis centres in Mogadishu that cannot afford as many patients as they do not have enough machines, including Daarusalaam hospital, which is funded by the Hormuud Foundation located outside Daaru-salaam. There is also the Hawa-Abdi Hospital, and a newly opened facility called Dalmar Hospital which both provide limited dialysis services to a small number of patients. All together, there are fewer than 50 dialysis machines in Mogadishu, which isn’t enough to serve all the patients in South and Central Somalia, where new patients are admitted to hospitals every day for dialysis.

“The two most common causes of kidney disease are diabetes and high blood pressure.” Dr Abdirahman Abdulkadir Osman, internal medicine and nephrology specialist at Baxnaano Hospital, told iSHA. He also added, “Somali people have a misconception regarding dialysis. They believe if a person undergoes even one dialysis session, they will never recover. So you will meet people who need dialysis and yet refuse. Part of that reluctance includes financial limitations as it costs at least $35 per dialysis session, they also need a minimum of two sessions a week. Lack of awareness and late response are also one of the biggest challenges Somali patients and hospitals face” he added.

Dr. Abdulkadir advises Somali people with diabetes and high blood pressure to closely monitor their kidney function and to attend regular check ups, otherwise they may be at risk of kidney failure. Most Somali people are unaware of the consequences of renal failure. “People with kidney failure should keep in touch with dietitians because foods high in phosphorus and potassium can make them sick, and people eat them without realising it”.

Since Somalia’s health infrastructure is poor, many people die unknowingly due to diseases such as chronic renal failure. Those living in rural areas, and areas that have no health facilities do not have access to health information and medical support and therefore may die unnoticed. Only a few people who are able to go abroad for renal transplantation go to Turkey and India, but most of the people are dialysis dependent in the country. Financial donors do not focus on kidney failure due to its need for huge amounts of money and investment and maintenance as well; they focus on primary health care instead.

iSHA suggests:

  1. People check their health often, especially people who are older or have other pre-existing health conditions.
  2. Health education for all, with extra care for those in rural areas without access to health information.

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