Counterfeit medicine endangering Somali lives

New government measures are taken to mitigate counterfeit trade in expired and toxic medicines.

Hamza Mohamed


Mogadishu, Somalia - Unlicensed clinics and pharmacies with unqualified staff have been dispencing counterfeit and expired medicines that are making people sick and endangering the lives of Somalis.

The sick can be seen walking towards the hospital at dawn, before any other souls venture out onto the streets of Mogadishu. They move slowly, placing one shaky limb before the other, accompanied by the cool ocean breeze and the sound of crowing roosters.

Those with a dollar to spare take a tuk-tuk. They are all heading to a high-walled guarded compound in the relatively well-off neighbourhood in Mogadishu’s Hodan district.

They are worse than bombs because a bomb kills 10 or 20 people. But these drugs can kill hundreds of people and no one will hear about it.

Dr Osman Mohamud Dufle

These latest victims of Mogadishu’s thriving counterfeit and expired medication industry hope to get treatment at one of the few licensed hospitals in the city.

They are also the lucky ones.

Many people who are sickened by the dubious medication do not make it this far.

Damaged organs

Every morning more than 50 patients gather at Doctor Osman Mohamud Dufle’s specialist hospital. Several among them are usually people who have suffered complications caused by the expired or counterfeit medication prescribed to them by unqualified health workers.

Osman Mohamud Muhumed was one of them and had come to this private hospital to seek treatment.

The 52-year-old had sought treatment for what appeared to be malaria, but ended up bedridden for six months after taking medication given to him by doctors at a clinic near his home just outside the city.

He could barely stand without assistance. Saggy skin with hardly any flesh shrouded his body, his breathing heavy and laboured as he recounted his story.

“I went to a clinic near my home. They gave me what they said was medicine,” he told Al Jazeera.

“At first the medicines did not work and then as I continued taking them as they advised me, it made my situation worse. They kept on telling me to continue taking them. It got so bad; the drugs almost killed me,” Muhumed said, his skeletal body looking lost on the hospital stretcher.

No one really knows how many patients fall victim to expired or counterfeit medication in Somalia.

In this seaside city of more than a million people, there is a clinic or pharmacy on almost every street corner. Most are unregistered and employ unqualified staff. Colourful murals on their walls and offers of cheap medicine help maintain a steady stream of customers.

Muhumed’s liver now barely functions - his body had to be cleansed of the toxic concoction he had ingested; his kidneys are not in much better shape.

Numbing the senses

Not far from the hospital where Muhumed was being treated, Nuurto Hassan Mursal sat with her palms on her cheeks and her legs crossed.

Mursal, a mother of 10, was handicapped by taking what she thought was medication to treat her severe migraine. She looked visibly sick as she sat in her crumbling two-bedroom house made of brick walls and a tin roof.

The medication had killed off all sensation in her feet and had covered her body with round white blisters that later turned to patches the size of golf balls.

But she was too traumatised to make another trip to any of the city’s hospitals.

“I can’t feel anything. I wouldn’t know if I walked on fire,” Mursal said. “It is like my feet are not part of my body,” she said pinching her feet to emphasise her point.

After her experience, hospitals and pharmacies are the last place she visits if she feels unwell. She prefers prayer to medication in seeking relief from an illness.

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photo source (where you can learn more about the problem of counterfeit drugs in poor countries) 

Fallen Heroes: A Tribute To The Health Workers Who Died Of Ebola

More than 360 African health workers died of Ebola this year. Some of them made headlines around the world, such as Dr. Umar Sheik Khan, the Sierra Leonean physician who treated more than 100 Ebola patients before contracting the disease himself.

But most of the fallen health workers didn’t get that degree of attention. They were doctors, nurses, midwives, lab technicians. They didn’t have the proper protective equipment. As they tried to save the lives of others, they sacrificed their own.

The loss is tremendous. Liberia, for example, a nation of 4.3 million, had only about 50 doctors before the Ebola outbreak. The country has reportedly lost four of them to the epidemic.

In some West African clinics and medical facilities, the faces of the lost health workers stare out from tribute walls: Photos of the deceased are posted in hallways outside offices and examination rooms. A person’s name and job may be scrawled in ink underneath the photo, along with a personal note.

At Kenema Government Hospital in Sierra Leone, the messages included:

“Angie, We all love U but God loves U. May her soul rest in perfect peace.”

“Gone but not forgotten. R.I.P.”

“Another fallen hero.”

Continue reading.

Photo: Theses 32 health workers are among the 360-plus who sacrificed their lives in the fight against Ebola. Their names are listed at the bottom of the post. The photos are displayed at the Liberian Midwives Association in Monrovia. (NPR Composite)

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1.1 billion people at risk of hearing loss

WHO highlights serious threat posed by exposure to recreational noise

Today is Ear Care Day

Make Listening Safe initiative

To mark International Ear Care Day, celebrated each year on March 3rd, WHO is launching the “Make Listening Safe” initiative to draw attention to the dangers of unsafe listening and promote safer practices. In collaboration with partners worldwide, WHO will alert young people and their families about the risks of noise-induced hearing loss and advocate towards governments for greater attention to this issue as part of their broader efforts to prevent hearing loss generally.

Worldwide, 360 million people today have moderate to profound hearing loss due to various causes, such as noise, genetic conditions, complications at birth, certain infectious diseases, chronic ear infections, the use of particular drugs, and ageing. It is estimated that half of all cases of hearing loss are avoidable. To address this issue, WHO collates data and information on hearing loss to demonstrate its prevalence, causes and impact as well as opportunities for prevention and management; assists countries to develop and implement programmes for hearing care that are integrated into the primary health-care system; and provides technical resources for training health workers.

(From WHO)

In just two days, Liberia will celebrate what seemed an impossible dream last summer: The end of its Ebola outbreak.Saturday, May 9 will mark the 42nd day of no new Ebola cases in the country. A person with Ebola typically shows symptoms within 21 days of exposure. But the World Health Organization adds an extra 21 days for extra caution before declaring that an outbreak has ended. So on Saturday, WHO officials and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf will announce that Liberia is Ebola-free.

NPR’s global health correspondent, Jason Beaubien, visited Liberia in August and October when Ebola was raging. He’s back in the country for this milestone day, and he spoke with us about the mood there.

On Saturday, The Ebola Outbreak In Liberia Should Be Officially Over

Photo by Jason Beaubien/NPR

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The Unfixed Brain

This video is a bit graphic, but it’s also pretty amazing.

Most of us “think that the brain is sort of the consistency of a rubber ball,” says neurobiologist Suzanne Stensaas of the University of Utah. That’s the consistency the organ becomes when researchers preserve it in chemicals, such as formaldehyde. 

But when alive and firing, the brain is actually really soft and compressible, like a sack of goo. “It’s much softer than most of the meat you see in a market,” Stensaas says. 

In this video, Stensaas explores the anatomy of a 1,400 gram brain freshly removed from an autopsy, before it’s put in any chemicals.

The video gave me a whole new understanding and appreciation for how remarkable – and vulnerable – this amazing organ is. 

Wear your helmets!

Video from University of Utah Brain Institute/Youtube.com

(Image from water.org)

Today is World Water Day. This year, more than 840,000 people will die due to lack of access to clean water. That’s unjust, and it’s also unnecessary. There’s been tremendous progress in the past 20 years; as a result, more women are able to work for income, and more children are able to go to school.

But the water crisis continues to be a massive barrier to gender equality, to improving global health, and to reducing poverty. Clean water makes a huge difference to communities, as nerdfighteria has seen from Bangladesh to Haiti to Ethiopia, and so on this World Water Day, I hope you’ll join me in taking a few minutes to read a bit about the water crisis and how governments and NGOs are trying to address it.

There’s something very telling, though, about requiring women to tap-dance a little to earn an abortion, particularly when no one would dare suggest—for good reason—that women have to ask for permission to give birth. It shows that attitudes about abortion are actually shaped by attitudes about sex and gender roles. Women are supposed to want babies, and if they don’t, they’re supposed to be apologetic and do penance for defying their ‘natural’ role.
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Mapping The Diseases That Will Most Likely Kill You

Depending on where you live, these are the diseases that will most likely kill you. Using data from the World Health Organization, Simran Khosla at the GlobalPost labeled each nation with the disease that caused the most death in that country.

And it seems like much of the world will succumb to heart disease. Most prevalent in Africa is HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. You can zoom in on the other regions at GlobalPost.

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Let’s talk about our stereotypes about Africa and how ridiculous they are. Also college!

The #1 reason people die early, in each country

The above map shows the leading cause of lost years of life by country. The data comes from the Global Burden of Disease study, whose 2013 installment was released just a few weeks ago.

It’s worth stressing that “cause of lost years of life” and “cause of death” aren’t identical. For example, deaths from preterm births may cause more lost years of life in a country than deaths from heart disease even if heart disease is the leading cause of death. Deaths from preterm births amount to many decades of lost life, whereas heart disease tends to develop much later on.

(More from Vox)

This interactive map visually plots global outbreaks of measles, mumps, whooping cough, polio, rubella, and other diseases that are easily preventable by inexpensive and effective vaccines. The Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations has been tracking news reports on these outbreaks since the fall of 2008. This project aims to promote awareness of a global health problem that is easily preventable.

Al Jazeera broke the story that the U.N. likely brought the cholera epidemic to Haiti. But, despite the mounting evidence of its role, the U.N. still refuses to take responsibility for the epidemic and has invoked diplomatic immunity to refuse to pay compensation to cholera victims and their families. 

Tune in tonight at 7ET for our Award-winning film “Haiti in a Time of Cholera,” detailing the continuing human cost of the outbreak.