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Published: 2017-08-17

WHO supports Somali-Swedish collaboration

NEWS Somali-Swedish Collaboration in Research for Health is an initiative where doctors and nurses from Somalia can develop knowledge and skills through research in Somalia. The programme, led from Umeå University in Sweden, has recently been granted crucial support from the World Health Organization and is described in the journal Global Health Action.

Five Swedish and six Somali universities are collaborating with active researchers in the Somali diaspora in the programme to strengthen health care in one of the world’s most fragile states. The modell also creates improved contacts and collaborations between the country’s regions and ethnic groups – that have been hard struck by war and starvation.

“This is a very different programme somewhere in the borderline between education, development, doctoral education, research and aid. Our hopes are that this model, in which we collaborate by building up domestic research capacity in Somalia/Somaliland, could also be usable in other so-called fragile states,” says Klas-Göran Sahlén, senior lecturer at the Unit of Epidemiology and Global Health at Umeå University and mentor to the programme as well as co-author of the article published in Global Health Action.

“For the programme to become bridge-building, the participants come from all regions in Somalia. This is important as internal conflicts between groups have existed for a long time.”

Arising collaboration

Already in 1981, Sweden initiated support to doctoral educations at Somali universities with the help of the research body for developmental work, SAREC. However, the collaborations ended in the early 1990s due to the civil war. The long-term objectives for supporting the build-up of research initiatives in Somalia is that it will facilitate the establishment of a sustainable national health care system and help regain public trust of the country’s institutions.

The inter-university cooperation was restarted in 2013. In 2016, 25 Somali university employees and clinically active medical doctors and nurses from all regions started an education programme aimed at increasing researcher competence. The idea is for each trainee to have one Swedish and one Somali mentor. There are currently 20 Swedish mentors from Umeå, Uppsala and Lund universities as well as at Karolinska Institutet. At present, 30 Somali mentors are taking part. And thanks to the internet, the mentors and course participants are able to get in touch despite the geographical distance.

Relevant research in place

Programme participants are conducting their research in Somalia and are basing it on the country’s conditions and available resources. One example is Mohamed Farah Abdullahi, a trainee from Puntland University of Science and Technology, who is studying how to best communicate the importance of vaccinating Somali children.

Klas-Göran Sahlén
Foto: Lena Mustonen

“Trainees in the programme are often clinically active medical doctors and nurses who are proficient in their respective fields, but who lack research experience. Through the mentor programme, our trainees are provided support in order to develop their skills as researchers. At the same time, we as mentors gain knowledge that can be used in global health research and education,” says Klas-Göran Sahlén.

In October, the participants in the ongoing educational programme will meet in Hargeisa, Somaliland, to present their research at a mid-point seminar. Furthermore, a concluding conference for the participants is planned for spring 2018 in Somalia.

“To gain financial support from Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research, hosted by WHO, means that we can now go through with the concluding conference in Somalia. Hopefully, the Alliance funding can also lead to other forms of collaboration in the future. First and foremost, however, it is an important recognition of how a knowledge-promoting programme can serve as a valuable model for creating a long-term functional health care system in fragile states such as Somalia,” says Klas-Göran Sahlén.

Media suggestions:

  • A previous trainee, Maryame Qaasim, was recently appointed Somali governmental minister for humanitarian affairs and disaster management.
  • John Kinsman, researcher at the Unit of Epidemiology and Global Health at Umeå University is one of the mentors to the programme. John Kinsman is a committed mentor to Dr Mohamed Farah Abdullahi Puntland (see above).

Read the article in Global Health Action

Read more about the Somali-Swedish Collaboration in Research for Health

About the publication:

Global Health Action, article: Rebuilding research capacity in fragile states: the case of a Somali–Swedish global health initiative. Author: Abdirisak Ahmed Dalmar, Abdullahi Sheik Hussein, Said Ahmed Walhad, Abdirashid Omer Ibrahim, Abshir Ali Abdi, Mohamed Khalid Ali, Derie Ismail Ereg, Khadra Ali Egal, Abdulkadir Mohamed Shirwa, Mohamed Hussain Aden, Marian Warsame Yusuf, Yakoub Aden Abdi, Lennart Freij, Annika Johansson, Khalif Bile Mohamud, Yusuf Abdulkadir, Maria Emmelin, Jaran Eriksen, Kerstin Erlandsson, Lars L Gustafsson, Anneli Ivarsson, Marie Klingberg-Allvin, John Kinsman, Carina Källestål, Mats Målqvist, Fatumo Osman, Lars-Åke Persson, Klas-Göran Sahlén and Stig Wall. DOI: 10.1080/16549716.2017.1348693.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Khalif Bile Mohamud, Somali-Swedish Researchers Assosiation (SSRA)Phone: +46 73-8741132
Email:  khalif.bilemohamud@gmail.com

Klas-Göran Sahlén, Unit of Epidemiology and Global Health, Umeå UniversityPhone: +46 90-786 6358
Email: klas-goran.sahlen@umu.se

Main image: Participants in the Somali-Swedish Collaboration in Research for Health at a meeting in Hargeisa, Somaliland, in 2016. Photo: Umeå University.

Editor: Anna Lawrence