Tuesday, June 17, 2003

SOMALIA: First postwar medical college opens in Mogadishu
NAIROBI, 17 JUNE 2003 (IRIN) - Somalia's first medical college in 12 years officially opened in the capital, Mogadishu, on 15 June.

The Benadir University Medical College (BUMC) is to be funded by donations from Somali physicians and an annual fee of US $1,500 per student, its rector, Dr Usman Adan Abdulle, told IRIN.

The BUMC, which is currently training 22 medical students (11 of them women), actually started classes late last year. It was officially opened on 15 June by the president of the Transitional National Government, Usman said.

It was the first time since the start of the civil war in 1991 that such an institution had come into operation, a Somali source told IRIN.

Usman, one of the most respected physicians in Somalia, said "the need for more doctors became acute, and so we had to explore ways of getting more of them into the health system". There is a general shortage of medical practitioners in Somalia, because no new doctors have entered the profession since 1990. At the same time, "former doctors left the country, got old or simply died", he noted. "Before the civil war, our university used to graduate 50 doctors per year."

Dr Abdirazzaq Ahmed Dalmar, the BUMC's director of training and international collaboration, told IRIN that the BUMC had concluded collaboration agreements with a number of foreign universities, including Kings College, London, University College London, Howard University in Washington DC, Palermo University in Italy, and Lund University in Sweden. These institutions had pledged to provide "long-distance training and equipment", Dalmar said. "Palermo university has already donated teaching material, and is offering refresher courses for the instructors and will send instructors when the security situation improves," he added.

According to Usman, BUMC will be staffed by Somali doctors based both inside and outside the country. "We have commitments from Somali doctors in the diaspora that they will come to teach in rotation," he told IRIN.

Usman said the BUMC would have an initial intake of between 50 and 60 students per year. "We have decided that is the optimum number the college can train at present," he said, pointing out that there were more applicants than the college could absorb.

The students would undergo a six-month period of intensive English-language and information technology training before starting their five-year course, Dalmar said. He said the college's language of instruction would be English.

Usman told IRIN that the university's most pressing needs were a library and teaching material. "Any donations in this regard will be highly appreciated and welcomed," he said, appealing to international donors "and those involved in the health sector in Somalia" to help make the project a success.


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