Last month, the Edna Adan University Hospital hosted a special one-day medical conference on the subject of congenital and acquired disabilities among children in the Horn of Africa. The first of its kind in Somaliland, this was a landmark event for our hospital and the medical profession, drawing over 100 delegates from all corners of the country and beyond.
Since 2011, our hospital has been hosting surgical camps for infants and children suffering birth defects and acquired disabilities. Patients travel from a wide geographical area within the Horn of Africa to receive free treatment for conditions such as hydrocephalus, spina bifida, hypospadias, club foot, cleft lips and palates. Over the past four years the visiting surgeons involved in the camps observed a need for education among health professionals, both of the nature of the conditions and of the availability of treatment.
Held at the Mansoor Hotel in Hargeisa, the conference offered all in attendance an opportunity to reflect on how children suffering physical disabilities in East Africa might best be served by the hospitals, medical schools and practitioners charged with their care. Opened by the Director General of the Ministry of Health, approximately 30 organisations were represented, including local and international NGOs, health and educational facilities. 13 representatives of the Ministry of Health attended from all regions of Somaliland.
The three keynote speakers and other invited specialists presented on the opportunities and challenges surrounding surgical treatment offered at our hospital for congenital and acquired disabilities. Each considered what might have been overlooked in the past and what needs to be addressed in the future. Several health presenters also discussed post-operative community rehabilitation for children. Some delegates were unaware of treatments available within Somaliland. It is hoped that the information presented will be shared with their colleagues, and within the communities they serve, in order that those affected will receive the treatment needed for an improved quality of life.
The conference represented the culmination of many years of dedicated service on the part of neuro-pediatric surgeon Dr Richard Bransford, as, for the first time, former trainees, Drs Shukri Dahir and Deeqa Omar, shared their expertise on the treatment of conditions such as hydrocephalus and spina bifida. The event closed with a number of awards: to Dr Bransford a certificate of appreciation, and to Drs Shukri and Deeqa, a certificate of achievement in recognition of their competence as surgeons, fully equipped to independently perform a range of procedures for children with physical disabilities.