POWELL, Ohio — After returning from studying dentistry in Pakistan, Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan witnessed the transportation of Somalians from terrorist attack scenes and other emergencies to hospitals in wheelbarrows and handcarts. This is how he started Aamin Ambulance. The Somalian health care sector is weak, receiving little government funding. As a result, ambulances were scarce and often costly as they came from private hospitals. In a country with a poverty rate of 69%, some could not afford an ambulance ride to receive care quickly. However, Dr. Adan said he did not want to see a Somalia where people die as they cannot get help quickly enough.
In 2006, Dr. Adan rented a minibus and painted the colors of the Somalian flag, to provide free transportation to hospitals. Those in need would call him or the bus company for assistance. But just months later, using all his savings to buy a used ambulance, Dr. Adan established the first and still only free ambulance serving the more than 3 million people of Mogadishu, Somalia.
However, he could not do it all on his own, so he began to fundraise. He asked local university students to donate just $1 a month towards Aamin Ambulance. Aamin Ambulance, meaning trust in Somalian, began helping those in need throughout the capital city of Mogadishu with the work of additional volunteers.
Often, Aamin Ambulance is the first to a scene of an attack from the war with Islamist fighters. In addition to providing medical transport, Dr. Adan and his team helped journalists verify the facts of the scene.
Now, Aamin Ambulance has more than 20 ambulances and 40 drivers total. However, Dr. Adan wants to expand the free service to the whole country of Somalia. The 24/7 service has a hotline, 999, which receives about 30 calls a day just from the capital city of Mogadishu.
Though the service receives no government funding, other organizations are supporting the work of Aamin Ambulance. The volunteers have received first aid training from local hospitals, WHO and Red Cross Somalia, Anadolu Agency reported. Additionally, according to the BBC, the U.N. Development Programme has donated equipment such as cars and walkie-talkies.
Health Care in Somalia
Aamin Ambulance’s service is essential to Mogadishu and greater Somalia, as the health care system is one of the weakest in the world. There is limited investment in the health sector, receiving only 1.3% of total government spending. With few public hospitals, the treatment from private facilities can be expensive for Somalians.
While the free ambulance service is essential, it creates a challenge for government authorities who must depend on other organizations to provide much-needed services. According to The World Bank, work to strengthen Somalia’s health sector will benefit the country overall. Investing in the health sector will influence overall human and economic development. For example, the Turkish government helps support the Somalia-Turkey Training and Research Hospital in Mogadishu to treat patients and train local healthcare workers, according to Anadolu Agency.
Additionally, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, health systems need to have the tools available to respond to health emergencies. The World Bank has said that greater investment into the Somalian health care sector will prepare them for future health emergencies.
Dr. Adan wants to continue his service and reach more Somalians throughout the country. The service has received aid from NGOs and other nonprofits as more people have learned about the story of Aamin Ambulance. With help from countries such as Turkey, in addition to the essential service Aamin Ambulance is providing, the health care sector in Somalia is receiving more assistance.
– Abigail Turner