“My priority is to save lives.” How one Mogadishu doctor is responding to COVID-19

Healthcare worker - Action Against Hunger

Dr. Mustaf Yusef at the Hodan Stabilization Centre

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an alarming impact on health and food systems worldwide, particularly in areas already struggling with chronic food insecurity. In Somalia, protracted conflict and drought have forced millions from their homes. Malnutrition levels, particularly among young children, have skyrocketed. Action Against Hunger provides urgent treatment to some of the most acute cases at the emergency nutrition stabilization centre in Hodan, Mogadishu.

In this interview, Dr. Mustaf Yusef describes how he continues to provide lifesaving support to his patients, even in the midst of the pandemic.

How has the pandemic changed your daily work and routine?

“We had to adjust our routine work at the health centre immediately. When the pandemic started in Somalia, we had to restructure how we serve beneficiaries who come to the centre […] to ensure social distancing practices are adhered to. We also ensured that mothers received their RUTF (Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food) on a bi-weekly basis [instead of weekly] to minimize their trips to the centre.”

What has been the hardest thing about the pandemic?

“There was a lot of false information about COVID-19 going around. It was hard watching people not practicing social distancing or taking the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Through community health workers at both facility and community level, we worked hand-in-hand with the community to spread messages on COVID-19, including ways to protect oneself from contracting the virus and to address the stereotypes and misinformation about the virus.”

What has been the most rewarding thing?

“Many of our beneficiaries were reaching out to our health centre staff for information on COVID-19. This was really encouraging for me because it showed that members of the community were concerned and were willing to take the necessary measures to protect themselves and their families.”

What keeps you motivated to continue serving communities, even during a pandemic?

“As a health worker, my priority is to save lives. Being able to serve those who are most in need gives me joy, knowing that the work I do is crucial.”

Thanks to your support, Action Against Hunger continues actively working to contain the spread of the virus while also building more resilient health, food, and social protection systems.


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