Monday November 5, 2018
Somali ambulances carrying severely injured patients from the latest explosion in Mogadishu await to access the airport where the wounded will be evacuated on Turkish military planes
Among the first rescuers rushing to the scene of Somalia's deadliest
truck bombing last year were, as usual, members of the country's only
free ambulance service, Aamin Ambulance.
Founded over a decade ago
by a Somali dentist and funded by donations, Aamin Ambulance has become
an essential lifeline for ordinary folk, whether victims of armed
violence, car accidents or a complicated birth.Now it is running out of cash.
service is what people rely on in times of crisis, but we might have to
suspend operations due to financial constraints," said Abdulkadir Adan,
the 45-year-old founder. He blamed escalating running costs as demand
for the service has grown.
trained as a dentist in Pakistan and returned in 2006 to Somalia, where
he was appalled by the lack of free ambulances in the capital
Mogadishu, a city of around two million.
From his Bakara market dental practice he saw "women delivering babies rushed to hospital on a wheelbarrow".
by the work of Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi - whose Edhi
Foundation runs a network of free ambulances - Adan spent $4 200 of his
own money on a converted minibus ambulance.
Today, Aamin has a
fleet of 16 ambulances, employs 36 medics, drivers and support staff and
costs upwards of $12 000 a month to run.
Funding has come from
diaspora Somalis, businessmen and even Adan's own students at a medical
school in the city, who he encourages to donate after lectures.
Mogadishu's worst day
ambulances are often among the first on the scene of regular bombings
by Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants in Mogadishu which leave hundreds
dead and maimed annually.
Following the October 2017 truck
bombing that killed over 500 people, donations spiked as a spotlight was
thrown on Aamin's work, but a year on the money is drying up.
"If it was not for the sacrifices made by the team, many people who are alive today would be dead," said Adan.
was the worst day I have witnessed in my life, the most terrible
incident," he said, adding that many of his fellow first responders that
day still suffer from nightmares and panic attacks after dragging
scores of charred and dismembered bodies from collapsed buildings.
Somalis can afford to hire one of the city's many commercial ambulance
operations, but for the poor Aamin is the only option, filling a gap
left by the country's dysfunctional state.
"If Aamin Ambulance is
closed, many Somalis will die," said 20-year-old Feisal Mohamed Rashid
who was rescued from a city bombing last month.
Mohamed Dayib, 32, credits the courage of Aamin workers with his brother's survival after a bombing last year.
will be disaster if this service is no longer there," he said. "Who is
going to rush to the scene of a blast if not Aamin Ambulance?"
Adan has appealed for support and has won some already, but he needs more.
service is very important, and because it exists so many lives have
been saved," said Bashir Yusuf, a 42-year-old businessman.
private sector is ready to assist," he said, "but in the long term there
needs to be sustainable government funding because in this country, one
thing you can be sure of, is a disaster can strike anytime."