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.
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.
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 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.
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.
UNDER HOSPITAL BEDS
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
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
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,
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.
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
By M.M. Afrah©2004