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TALKING POINT : WHO IS GOING TO LEAD OUR PEOPLE OUT OF THESE EXPIRED DRUGS?

TALKING POINT BY
M.M. AFRAH
Toronto (Canada)

July, 2. 2004
WHO IS GOING TO LEAD OUR PEOPLE OUT OF THESE EXPIRED DRUGS?

Email: afrah95@hotmail.com
M. M. Afrah

We are spending so much time on clan warfare, warlords, peace talks, ceasefire, political intrigues and the flow of weapons, and narcotic drugs into Somalia from neighbouring countries. But we appear to have forgotten the expired medicines sold in the mushrooming uncontrolled pharmacies in big cities and towns of our disjointed country.
According to a World Health Organization (WHO) report, we have been hit with shocking statistics.

These expired medications, mostly from Europe, and re-exported from the Middle East and Kenya, affect some 300,000 people annually. It's hard to tell whether these include those who died as a result of these expired medicines.

While some pharmacies aren't harbouring decades old medications, it's not uncommon for these items to take up shelf spaces in most pharmacies well past their expiry dates.
While these decades old medications drew attention from WHO officials sitting in their heated/air-conditioned offices in Nairobi or Geneva, hundreds, or perhaps thousands of Somalis are dying every day just because they were unable to seek out or read that little devious stamp at the bottom of the medicine container. Although expired medications are illegal to put on the shelves, even many Somalis in the Diaspora do not bother to read the label, an essential trend for shoppers in the Western Hemisphere, not only on medications, but tinned foodstuff in the groceries as well.


As far as I can recall, it happened only once during my ten years in North America when a local pharmacist was found guilty of selling an expired pain-killer medication over the counter. The penalty for this crime is 5 years behind the bars and the suspension of his license for life by the Pharmacy and Poison Control Board, which issues licenses to pharmacists.
The concern is that the chemical components of expired medications can be very hazardous, and the prudent thing to do is to obey the expiration dates until a responsible national government is formed in Somalia.


Reports from Somalia indicate that the pharmaceutical outlets are almost entirely run by quakes, and since there is no national government these phony pharmacists are taking advantage of the chaos and anarchy by dispensing expired medicines over the counter.

The situation is further compounded by the departure of qualified pharmacists, registered nurses and doctors, many of whom fled to Western Europe and North America for safe haven and for better pay. Another drawback is that the gates of SOS, the only hospital in Mogadishu that treats underprivileged patients free of charge have been closed after gunmen threatened to kill one of the doctors there.

GUNS UNDER HOSPITAL BEDS

Well-armed gunmen bring in their wounded colleagues from the battlefield to the other cash strapped hospitals and chronic scarcity of medicines, and threaten doctors to give top priority to their wounded comrades-in-arms, or else… In this way many good doctors lost their lives in the line of duty, the root cause of more doctor shortage in the country. Only few doctors remained in the country to treat the vulnerable people, despite the intrinsic dangers to their lives in one of the most dangerous places on earth, after today's Iraq.


Even those who are admitted for surgery routinely put their guns and hand grenades under their hospital beds, which naturally terrify other patients, the self-sacrificing doctors and nurses.
"We put signs prohibiting weapons within the hospital perimeters, but it seems none of the militia takes note of it," one of the doctors at the old Digfer General Hospital, who refused to be named for obvious reason, said.


Somalia has been bleeding from the harrowing effect of a long drawn warfare since 1991 and now, the effect of these silent killers, which nobody seems to care. You may ask: What is the solution to put an end to these expired medications and the quakes? I believe that if groups like the local human rights organizations, health workers, women's organizations, university professors, the self-appointed Islamic judges, and the few remaining qualified pharmacists come together and establish an accountable body of inspectors and enforcers could find a band aid to solve this problem once and for all-at least until a responsible national government is formed. Because what is at stake is the lives of our people and nobody in the world gives damn about dying Somalis. As a matter of fact Somalia became a dumping ground for expired medications, tinned foodstuffs, toxic waste and weapons of all types and calibers.


Taking advantage of the lawlessness in the country, organized crime syndicates, including the Mafia in cahoots with some of the warlords have been dumping nuclear and other toxic waste on our territorial waters with impunity. Foreign fishing trawlers and factory ships sweep everything on the Ocean floor, killing even the endangered sea turtles and the yellow lobsters with vacuum cleaners, In this way, the trawlers fishing too close to the shore has destroyed most of the fish breeding grounds.


And those who try to prevent these poachers from stealing our marine resources are quickly branded as "Somali pirates" by the foreign media. A case in point is the recent South Korean trawler/factory ship, which was impounded by Puntland armed militia after it had violated Somalia's territorial waters on a number of occasions, a repeat offender, according to the armed militia.


One contrast, however, is the ready availability of state-of-the-art communications system in the country. Almost everyone who is who in Mogadishu and Hargeisa owns the latest cell phones, computer laptops and cheap access to the worldwide Internet. A phone call abroad is the cheapest in the world, and anyone with a dollar can easily send a message to a relative in the Diaspora to expedite the monthly remittance.

The US Dollar is still the Grand Old Daddy of international currency, despite the availability of the relatively new Euros and other convertible currencies at the sprawling Bakaaraha open-air market.


Reliable sources said the people who run these thriving businesses, in connivance with the some of the powerful warlords are the main obstacles to peace and the establishment of an all-inclusive national government in the country, a government that would eventually force them to pay taxes, license fees, control hazardous substances and custom duties. They would do everything in their power to keep the status quo of free-for-all atmosphere in the country, including creating tension and panic, which would eventually lead to renewed bloody warfare among clans, the sources said.


By M.M. Afrah©2004
Afrah95@hotmail.com


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