Community, Puntland administration and UNICEF collaborate to provide health services
Two health posts constructed in Girible ‘A’ and Yelho communities in Bossaso, Northeast Somalia (“Puntland”) are making a great difference in the lives of their communities. The health posts were constructed through community participation and contribution under UNICEF’s Community-Driven-Development (CDD) programme. They were also supported with staff, training and supplies by UNICEF in collaboration with the Puntland Ministry of Health. They are currently being maintained by the communities and are currently serving more than 5,200 households.
Girible A village is a village located in the eastern part of Bossaso district with a population estimated at 5,200 households. Efforts by UNICEF in collaboration with World Bank to involve the community in identifying its priority needs commenced in 2007. In 2009 the village endorsed the Joint UN Programme for Local Governance and Decentralized Service Delivery (JPLG) in collaboration with the Puntland government. Following this, five community action plans for the village were implemented focusing on sanitation campaigns; construction of toilets for internally displaced persons and poor families; income generation for the poor; construction of a health post and construction of a market. As a result of sensitization, community awareness of priority needs rose with at least 35 community members active in this process.
Speaking on the situation before the implementation of the programme, the chairperson of the Girble 'A' Community Development Committee Salado Abtidon said the village located in the suburban areas of Bossaso was very far from health centres. “Before construction of the health centre, the nearest one was about two kilometres away and even then, most people could not afford to pay the fees charged,” he said. Additionally, the community did not have trained community health workers. In March 2009, the health post was completed. However, the community at that stage still had to spend money on a security guard, electricity and water. In the initial stages, the Puntland Ministry of Health which had promised to provide equipment and medicine had not done so.
In July 2010 UNICEF supplied drugs to the health centre. “The supply of drugs rejuvenated the community’s spirits as the health post started operations with two community health workers providing services,” said Salado. People who previously could not access and afford health services including internally displaced persons were now able to do so. To ensure the efficient operation of the facility, a village committee was set up to oversee management of services.
The management committee however says that more support is needed for the centre and acknowledges that more members of the community are utilizing the services at the health post. Though the community was grateful to UNICEF for its support, the drugs donated were not sufficient to cater for the population of 5,200 households,” one of the residents said.
Similarly in Yelho a rural village located 50 km south of Bossaso along the tarmac road, the population currently estimated at 500 people is benefitting from a health post. The village was established in 1960 and the majority of its inhabitants are farmers. Prior to the setting up of the health post, UNICEF and the Puntland Ministry of Interior conducted training to promote community dialogue and to help in identifying priority development needs. Eleven community development committee members were selected to help in this process.
Sahal Muse the Community Development Committee chairperson said prior to establishment of the health post, the health care situation in the village was dire. “People had to travel to Bossaso for treatment. Additionally, the village lacked community health workers and midwives. People who could not gain access to a doctor or medicine were forced to use traditional medicine and healers. The situation was especially bad for pregnant women.”
Though the residents felt UNICEF should have donated more drugs, they were nonetheless happy that they as well as nomadic communities have benefitted from them as well as other health services. Said Sahal: “It helps that community health workers provide good care and advice. The women are happy that they can get treated within the community. We thank all the agencies and everybody who helped bring the health services closer to us and we promise to maintain the facility in good order.”
Since establishment of the health post in May 2009 however, the situation has changed for the better. Residents of the village as well as nomadic people from places further away are now able to access drugs and medical services from the centre and community health workers are very available and able to provide services. Residents of the village are grateful for the services provided so far and have thanked all the agencies including UNICEF that helped in setting up the health post.