Medical Aid in Somalia

After two decades of ongoing civil war, Somalia’s health care system is in shambles. Almost two-thirds of Somali doctors have fled the country while health care infrastructure continues to be destroyed. As a result of these and other issues, the country is ranked 179th out of 191 countries in terms of its health care system, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Today, one-third of the deaths of children under 5 years of age are caused by malnutrition and 3.2 million people lack access to emergency health services.

The Response: Medical Aid in Somalia

Many global organizations have responded to this crisis. The International Committee of Red Cross spent a third of its budget on medical aid in Somalia in 1992, and other organizations such as the WHO and the U.N. have worked extensively in the country. However, it’s not just large organizations that are working to restore Somalia’s health care system.

Starting in 2016, a Minnesotan organization called the Minnesota Association of African People With Disabilities (MNCAPD) has partnered with the global nonprofit MATTER to send shipping containers full of medical equipment to Somalia. The organization has been able to deploy these supplies — which range from hospital beds to full x-ray rooms — about twice a year since 2016. The MNCAPD also has an official partnership with the Somali Ministry of Health to ensure ease of integration into the Somali health care system. The group mainly focuses on medical issues affecting women, children and the elderly, sending items such as nutritious food for mothers and children as well as wheelchairs and canes.


Founded in 2014, MNCAPD is an organization created by adults with disabilities in Hennepin County, the most populated county in Minnesota. At a local level, MNCAPD works to find housing for adults with disabilities as well as help them with issues such as immigration and setting up medical appointments, among other things. However, MNCAPD also works extensively on providing medical aid in Somalia through its partnership with the Somali Ministry of Health and MATTER.

The organization’s Executive Director Nimo Ahmed estimates that shipping costs, which are entirely covered by MNCAPD, come out to about $12,000 per delivery of medical supplies. “I would love to ship [supplies] every day…but I cannot…because of funding,” Ahmed told The Borgen Project. The group mainly relies on donations to fund the shipments. This involves reaching out to friends and family to broader community fundraising efforts.

In 2015, the year before the group started sending supplies to Somalia, they paid a visit to the country. “I learned that there [are] people that are worse [off] than us,” said Ahmed. “I met some mothers that didn’t eat for a couple of days, I see kids that didn’t eat for a couple of days. I see there are little kids that didn’t have nutritious foods, I see kids that cannot go to the doctor…I see disabled people [who] cannot get access to…a wheelchair or a cane.”

“I invite [other organizations] to go to the place that they want to help and see what’s exactly helping, and just do the work on the ground of finding somebody…who’s on the ground and knows what’s happening,” Ahmed said.

Kelton Holsen
Photo: Flickr