NIH Somalia: promoting health for all Somali people



The National Institute of Health (NIH) was established and approved in December 15, 2013 by the Honorable Minister Dr Maryam Qasim, Minister for the Ministry for Human Development and Public Services. Until recently, the Directorate of Health which was part of that Ministry was responsible for the health issues of the country. But from February 2014, there will be an independent Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).      


As an autonomous institute under the FMOH of Somalia, the NIH will focus on national public health issues whereby the data generated will be used for tracking health risks, identifying emerging problems, improving treatment, and evaluating programs. The institute will provide evidence-based advice to the FMOH as well as to the Regional Authorities responsible for health. It will also act as the national reference laboratory for infectious diseases.   

Justification of the Institute 
The two decades of turmoil in Somalia had negatively impacted the health care system in the country. Firstly, due to profound brain-drain of the country’s limited qualified health professionals, and secondly, due to the collapse of health institutions including teaching and research institutions as well as hospitals and other important public health institutions. As a result, the FMOH of Somalia reserved no efforts to rebuild a national health system that is capable of delivering effective and efficient health services. Yet, due to shortage of qualified human resources, and absence of key health institutions, Somalia’s health care system faced considerable inadequacies. 
The  success of rebuilding a sustainable health system in Somalia is dependent on the availability of evidence-based national health information that guides the FMOH and other stakeholders in identifying priorities, adopting an evidence-based national health policy and subsequently making decisions to improve the country’s health care system. In most nations, such evidence-based information is supplied to the FMOH by equivalent institutions developed for this specific public health purpose.    
Nonetheless, establishing such a demanding institution in Somalia requires the presence of highly qualified health personnel with the capability to develop and implement advanced and innovative public health projects and research. After seeing the absence of such an important institution in Somalia, the establishment of the NIH under the FMOH was envisaged with the cooperation and coordination of the national and international partners with the idea of  strengthening the FMOH’s capability to develop a more effective and sustainable health care system in the country.