Returning to Somalia was not an easy decision for Dr Ubah Farah Ahmed, but she knew it was the right thing to do.
“I have two children who are now in their mid-twenties and still live in Rome, but they understand why I had to return,” she says.
With an elderly father living in Mogadishu, the 48-year-old pediatrician had always known she would come back one day ‘to do my part to help’.
She left Somalia in 1991 because of the civil war and lived in Italy for the last 29 years, where she also studied medicine.
In the wake of the 1991 collapse of the central government, Somalia continued to experience conflict in many parts of the country. A lack of livelihood opportunities also forced thousands of people, including skilled professionals, to flee and settle in many parts of the world.
Nearly three decades later, many Somalis are returning to fill the gap left by the war. They include experts such as Dr. Ubah.
“As diasporas, we have had the privilege of studying in very good institutions around the world and it is vital that we promote Somalia’s development by applying our experience and skills to the new generation who do not have the opportunity, “Dr. Ubah says.
She is fully aware that there are still unstable spots.
“Some areas could be dangerous, but we realized that the country needs its best people to return,” said Dr. Ubah, who works in the women’s and children’s wards at Banadir Hospital in Mogadishu.
Her return to Somalia was made possible by the FINNSOM program of Migration for Development in Africa (MIDA), carried out by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
IOM mobilizes donor resources that make it possible to recruit diaspora specialists. They are then deployed in government agencies where their skills contribute to capacity building, while also transferring their knowledge to young local professionals through a mentoring program.
To date, nearly 500 persons have returned to Somalia through MIDA and have provided support in a wide range of areas, including education, health, public finance, migrant rights, justice and the rule of law, among many others.
Dr. Ubah joined MIDA in 2020 with the intention of sharing her pediatrics skills with other healthcare professionals. “I noticed that there was a huge appetite for my specialty and knowledge,” she says. “My dream is to contribute to reducing neonatal deaths in Somalia.”
According to the Somali National Development Plan 2020-2024, there are about 6,000 health workers in the country. Many of them have little experience in dealing with critical cases due to the lack of training facilities and support programs.
Dr. Ubah proudly remembers part of her first week on the program, when she began training junior doctors in neonatal best practices: in a different part of the hospital. Now there is always a doctor available when a mother gives birth. “
Banadir Hospital head Fartun Sharif Ahmed spoke of the excitement surrounding Dr. Ubah. “We were very happy to learn that she also had experience with newborn babies, and that was a qualification we desperately needed,” she said. “The impact has been enormous on mothers and their newborns.”
The country’s health system has seen many setbacks over the past 30 years and Somalis are delighted to see more diaspora professionals like Dr. Ubah coming back to support them in bringing the country back together. “We would not be able to provide this quality service without her. Dr. Ubah helps us with everything the hospital needs, not just for the pediatric department, but with everything that moves the hospital forward, ”added Fartun Sharif Ahmed.
The MIDA program also recruits local junior professionals and interns to learn from the diaspora specialists and ultimately apply their new skills once the experts are gone.
Dr. Ayaan Abdinur Elmi is one of the professionals learning from the senior pediatrician. “She understands and accepts the context in Somalia in the most respectful way. Leaving behind a peaceful environment in Rome and then coming to Mogadishu is really inspiring, ”says Ayaan Abdinur Elmi.
Dr. Ubah’s immediate future is in Mogadishu, where she wants to continue to contribute to the improvement of the health sector while showing fellow colleagues abroad what is possible.
“There are many Somali doctors around the world who are more experienced than me, who now see me as a role model,” she says. “I hope my steps will inspire others, not just doctors, but all professionals to come back and pass on their skills to our vibrant country.”
Dozens of testimonials collected over the years show the far-reaching impact Somalis have on the development of their own country. The passion and determination of the Somali diaspora is driving the country’s recovery and contributing to the National Development Plan, the Global Compact on Migration and the 2030 Development Agenda.
Dr. Ubah was made possible thanks to generous funding from Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs through the MIDA FINNSOM program. For 12 years, the main goal of the program has been to improve health and education outcomes in Somalia, through the active involvement of qualified Somali diaspora professionals from Finland and elsewhere.
* Text by Claudia Barrios Rosel and Erin Bowser, IOM Somalia.
For more information about the IOM MIDA Program and / or other experts and development initiatives, please contact *[email protected] or visit the MIDA * website *. *