The Habeeb Public Mental Health Hospital was first opened in November 2005 and began in a single room. It is now a network of 8 clinics and rehabilitatio centres throughout South and Central Somalia, 5 of those based in Mogadishu. Since opening, its founder, ‘Dr’ Abdi Rahmann Ali Alwa Habeeb (actually trained as a psychiatric nurse), reckons the clinics have treated over 13,700 patients. This though is only a small drop in an unbelievably large ocean with what appears by all accounts to be a vast and uncontrolled problem in Somalia. The country has one of the highest rates of mental health disorders in the world. According to WHO estimates at least one third of the entire Somali population of eight million are afflicted by some form of mental illness. And even these figures could be an underestimatation of the problem. As Dr Habeeb states ‘ Nobody who lives in Somalia today has good physical, mental and spiritual health.’
The main source of the problem has been the constant and spiralling conflict in the country which after 20 years has taken a serious toll on the local population.
Even with these figures though resources to combat the problem are severely limited. Before the onset of the current famine head international headlines, there was only 1 NGO out of 41 – namely the Habeeb Public Mental Health Hospitals – involved with the mental health issue. Dr Habeeb is in fact only one of three psychiatric nurses operating in the entire country. At the Habeeb Public Mental Health clinics, the nurses and volunteers can work anything up to 24 hour shifts with only 3 or 4 hours break in between. As Dr Habeeb states ‘We are angry as a group. I am angry. Why not give us more support?’ With no end in sight to the conflict, it is all but certain that without a dedicated effort to combat the problem, mental health disorders will only increase dramatically in Somalia.
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