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A frantic rush to get to Heathrow and then on to
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 this corner.
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.