In early June, MSF opened a primary health centre (PHC) in Doble, southern Somalia. The aim of the PHC - the only of its kind in the region - is initially to offer out-patient consultations to the local population.
According to Bruno Moonen, the recently returned MSF Head of Mission for Somalia, the acute need for such services was shown clearly as Somalis were forced to cross the nearby border into Kenya in order to access medical services in the Dadaab refugee camp.
As the team was confronted during their first days on the ground with an abnormally high mortality rate for children below 5 years of age, the initially focus was the treatment of this age group against the principal threats which included diarrhoea and malaria.
"There are simply no government health services in this part of Somalia, in fact, there is no government," he explained. "As such, private health care was the only option available and even this was no more than a few people, such as a midwife, travelling between villages. This meant that much of the region was barely covered and the private nature of the service meant that it was unaffordable for many people."
As part of the three-strong expatriate staff, an MSF nurse and doctor will undertake refresher training for a team of six Somali nurses working in the new PHC. Once this is completed, a second phase of the project will encompass a development of mother-and-child health (MCH) care, EPI (extended programme of immunisation) and further assessments for possible TB, Cholera and Kala Azar programmes.
However, security issues in the Somalia are of serious concern to the MSF team.
"But at the moment our relations with the committee of elders that constitute the local authorities in the area is good," explained Moonen. "We have to be extremely careful of local sensibilities, making sure that we don't hire too many people from one particular clan for instance is extremely important. The situation in the country can be volatile."
As part of the three-strong expatriate staff, an MSF nurse and doctor will undertake refresher training for a team of six Somali nurses working in the new PHC.