Uproar in Garissa border towns over worsening health crisis

Most facilities were closed six months ago because of frequent al Shabaab attacks and workers were redeployed to safe areas

In Summary

• Residents left with no functioning health centres and are to travel hundreds of kilometres to get care.

• The aftermath has been devastating. 

Garissa Women Representative Anab Gure and an officer from Galmagala police camp on Saturday
Garissa Women Representative Anab Gure and an officer from Galmagala police camp on Saturday

The health crisis in the border towns of Garissa county is worsening more than six months after most facilities were closed because of al Shabaab attacks.

Services have been disrupted. Members of the al Qaeda affiliate have been terrorising residents, staging attacks before fleeing back into Somalia. The porous border eases their work, allowing them to run roughshod over the region. 

Workers fled their stations and were redeployed to other county facilities that are deemed safe. The aftermath has been devastating. Residents have nowhere to turn to in case of a disease outbreak strikes.

They have to travel hundreds of kilometres to get treatment. They easily get worn out along the way. Some have to reach Garissa town. It is tiring and they have called for the national and county government’s intervention.

Others just decide to forgo treatment. The agony is inconceivable, they say.

Efforts to get a comment from Health executive Ahmed Nadhir were unsuccessful. He did not respond to text messages, while calls to his mobile phone did not go through.

Last week, Woman Representative Anab Gure urged the government to secure the border as a matter of urgency. She said lack of security has hampered development and led to civil servants fleeing.

Hulugho health centres, including Handaro, Mare, Bultohama, Ilkambere and Garabey are deserted. In Ijara Ruka, Sangoley, Warsame and Ijara, no staff has been replaced.

Healthcare in Fafi constituency is also in a shambles. Fafi, Bula Golol, Welmarer, Amuma and Yumbis health centres remain shut.

Meanwhile, the militants remain active in the Northeastern region. They target non-natives and security agents. In recent years, they have resorted to planting improvised explosive devices.

A fortnight ago, a health worker at Yumbis escaped death when the militants descended on the centre. It is a few kilometres from the Somalia border. The militants burnt the station and a vehicle ferrying medicine.

Residents say their lives are at stake. They have appealed to the national and county governments to boost security and restore normalcy in the health facilities. 

“We feel these officials left as a result of the prevailing security situation in the area. These areas are all in Kenya and have the right to get services they need,” Bura resident Mohamed Abdi said yesterday.

He said the government must act decisively, deal with the terror group and secure the border by ensuring adequate deployment of soldiers and police officers.

"Teachers have equally left the area. It’s like the government has forsaken these areas to illegal groups. Something urgent needs to be done," he added.

Fafi youth leader Mustafa Galib said the health crisis has been worsened by poor communication network that makes it difficult for residents to seek help in case of an emergency.

(Edited by F'Orieny)