A Special Report, where Daud Abdi Daud writes about the mental health problems related to the prolonged violence and war.
Somalia has been a lawless country for close to two decades. It has well and great experience of war and violence and although violence is still going on, many things have changed and the violence has now caused a lot of health problems for both civilians and the warring parties.
Among the consequences of war, the impact on the mental health of the civilian population is one of the most significant. Studies of the general population show a definite increase in the incidence and prevalence of mental disorders. Women are more affected than men. Other vulnerable groups are children, the elderly and the disabled. Prevalence rates are associated with the degree of trauma, and the availability of physical and emotional support. The use of cultural and religious coping strategies is frequent in Somalia.
Just more than four years ago, on the 23rd July 2005, I visited the only mental hospital in Mogadishu and interviewed two patients who were in the hospital and asked several questions about their situation – although the answer of that two patients was unclear because of the deficiency of their mind.
At that time, I was the owner and editor of the only health newspaper in the capital Mogadishu called Daryeel Newspaper.
The Director of Habeb Mental Hospital told me that the most of the patient in the hospital were suffering serious mental health problems like depression, anxiety and psychosomatic problems such as insomnia, or back and stomach aches.
“The people who experience traumatic events will have serious mental health problems” said Dr. Abdirahman Ali Awale (Habeb), who is the Director of the hospital.
Somalia is one of a few examples of prolonged human destabilization and psychosocial dysfunction caused by traumatic events.
The consequences remain in the personal and collective memory even long after peace agreements and repatriation has been accomplished. Traumatic experiences such as killings, material losses, torture and sexual violence, harsh detention and uprooting, all affect people’s behavior for generations. Life in overcrowded camps, deprivations, uncertainty over the future, disruption of community and social support networks lead to psychosocial dysfunction.
Now, four years on.
On 25th November 2009 the director of Habeb Mental Hospital confirmed to me that the mental damages from the ongoing war is more then the other normal mental illness records in his hospital since 2005.
More than 1,000 people are currently victim of mental health across the country according to Dr. Abdirahman Ali Awale (Habeb). The doctor also tells us that 150 patients are in his hospital for mental health problems.
Apart from the above mentioned conditions there is also other disease that can cause the mental problems such as the malnutrition and the infection disease like HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Syphilis, Trachoma, Tuberculosis and the traditional medicines.