Breakdowns common among Somaliland’s destitute pastoralists

Keydka | Qaar ka mid ah dadka dhimirka ka xanuunsan ee Baydhabo ku sugan/ Sawir/Muxiyadiin/Ergo

(ERGO) – Abdikarim Mohamed Ahmed, 47, has been under medication for four months and is set to be sent home soon. His six children have been living with their mother and grandmother. He has not seen them since he was admitted at Manhal private mental health hospital in Burao, the second largest city in Somaliland.

Abdikarim used to be the proud owner of 300 goats and three camels in Oowdayne, 75 km west of Burao, but only 18 of his goats survived the terrible drought.

“When I saw my livestock perish, and my children looking at me and I didn’t have food for them, that was when I lost my mind,” Abdikarim told Radio Ergo’s local reporter.

Around 150 people suffering from mental illness are receiving treatment in two small private hospitals in Burao – Manhal and Mandaye.

Dr Feysal Abdi, a psychiatrist at Manhal, told Radio Ergo that mental disorders are now very prevalent among this community. He said most of the patients were pastoralists from rural parts of Togdheer region, who have experienced the desperation of watching their herds and livelihoods withering in the drought. They have been unable to provide for their families and diminished as a result.

Manhal and Mandaye hospitals, both of which opened in the last two years to treat mental health cases, are full to capacity.

Abdirahman Ahmed Hassan, manager of Manhal, said there are many more people whose conditions are not being treated. They opened the hospital because of the increasing number of people sleeping on the streets, especially people who lost their livestock and received no help.

“We receive four to five people every day, and we cannot accept them. As soon as one patients recovers, we send them home and take in another. The numbers we keep are according to our financial resources and medical capacities,” Abdirahman said.

Manhal hospital collects around $2,000 a month in donations from private businessmen in the area. They use the money to pay the costs of treating patients from destitute pastoralist families. Other families from the city pay their own bills.

Whilst more than 160 patients have been treated in these two hospitals recently, many families simply do not know what to do with relatives who are suffering apparent mental illness.

Jama Yusuf has a shackle on his right ankle chaining him to a tree in the yard of his brother Abdullahi’s house. Abdullahi said they keep Jama there because they fear he could cause harm in the neighbourhood. Four months ago, Jama attempted to hang himself using a piece of cloth.  He was saved and taken to hospital, where he spent the last month being treated for severe neck injuries. His relatives buy him drugs from local pharmacies that help to calm his anxiety. He spends most of his time sitting under the tree.

Jama, his wife and four children were displaced from War-Ibran, 155 km south of Burao, last October. Only seven of his 157 goats survived the dreadful drought.


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