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Uneventful night in Nairobi. Flight to
Hargeisa is from Jomo Kenyatta airport, Nairobi. It’s a
non-commercial flight so after much struggling, I find that it is
piggy-backing on a gate for another flight. I am last to board the
tiny propeller plane which will take four hours to Hargeisa. The
women in the plane put on their veils to be ready for
Somaliland life and customs. Men, however, don’t
have to do anything!
Somaliland is one of the five Somali regions
which include Somalia, Ogadon and Djibouti. It is a
self-proclaimed republic recognised by itself, Djibouti, Ethiopia
and that’s about it. It was formally a British colony. The war that
ripped apart the region and continues today in the South started on
Kings College London and Tropical Health
Education Trust have invested in this deeply impoverished and
serviceless country for about a decade. The first mental health
programme was set up in 2008. I am proud to have been
part of that first group and have made many trips since then.
Two universities have been created since
relative peace was established in the region. Kings THET provides
the mental health component by an intensive two-week course led by
external lecturers and local co- lecturers. There are follow-up
teachings during the year, and in the past year internet distance
learning. The people we trained since 2008 are now the pioneers and
leaders in mental health in Somaliland. We have a few champions who
we heavily rely on to develop the mental health strategy in
Somaliland. Again I am proud to have been part of their
education and development.
We help the Hargeisa Group Hospital mental
health ward where standards are in urgent need of improvement.
I am glad to say that slowly things are a bit better.
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Dr Peter Hughes is a consultant psychiatrist
based at Springfield University Hospital, London. He has an
interest in international psychiatry and has been travelling to
Africa over the last five years doing short-term assignments in
mental health. He has recently flown to Somaliland to
work on a mental health programme.
This personal blog reflects Dr. Hughes' own
views and does not represent any Somaliland organisation in
the UK. However Dr. Hughes is indebted to KINGS-THET partnership
for providing an opportunity to take part in
this exciting project. He is grateful to Dr. Susie Whitwell
who leads the programme for mental health, and companions
Professor John Rees, Dr. Suleiman Yusuf, Helena Tabry from UK and
all colleagues in Somaliland.