The coastal city of Mogadishu lies in East Africa and is the capital of Somalia. Expatriates considering travelling to the city should note that the many Western countries advise against all travel to Somalia, especially Mogadishu. Since President Siad Barre was overthrown more than two decades ago, Somalia had been without an effective central government until 2012; the country’s lack of infrastructure and stability is a reflection of this. In 2012, the Federal Government of Somalia was established and since then, some improvements have been observed.
Medical facilities in Mogadishu are extremely limited. Mogadishu is home to Benadir hospital, the country’s biggest health center. There are also a number of mental health institutions in the capital, such as the Habeb hospital. However, medical professionals are scarce and as such, the services that are available are under pressure to meet the needs of the capital’s growing population.
The civil war that broke out in 1991 destroyed much of Somalia’s health infrastructure and has not been completely restored since. In 2013, the Ministry of Health of the Federal Government of Somalia announced plans to implement a nationwide health system of universal basic healthcare by 2016. This is not yet available.
Somalia was ranked as the lowest in all health indicators barring life expectancy in the 2001 UN Development Program’s Human Development Report. These results are indicative of the general dearth of healthcare available to locals and expatriates alike.
The many refugee camps in and around Mogadishu put huge amounts of strain on the medical services in the city. Many refugees seek assistance when droughts strike their homelands in other areas of Somalia.
Expatriates should appreciate that Mogadishu is regarded as a very dangerous place to travel to independently. High levels of poverty resulting from almost two decades of instability and infighting caused are very high rates of theft and violent crime. Armed militias are known to carry out armed robberies and kidnappings; there are also frequent outbreaks of tribal violence. Foreign nationals are immediately recognized as potential targets for crimes of this kind.
Threat levels from terrorism are presently categorized as high, with kidnapping being a particularly prevalent practice, not only in Mogadishu, but throughout Somalia. Terrorist attacks in Mogadishu are perceived to be highly likely, especially against westerners.
Diseases such as Acute Watery Diarrheal Syndrome, cholera and polio are all prevalent in Somalia and its capital, and some reports indicate a rise in HIV infection.
For these reasons, it is highly recommended that individuals travelling to Mogadishu take out a comprehensive travel medical insurance policy prior to embarkation.
The Mogadishu International Airport serves as the capital’s major hub of international travel. Also important for the city’s economy is the Port of Mogadishu, the largest harbor in the whole of Somalia. There are no active railways at present in Mogadishu, or Somalia generally.
In terms of travel to and from the city, there are a variety of roads that connect the capital with other major cities in Somalia. The year 2013 saw the initiation of a large transportation infrastructure project that aimed to connect the city to its international airport, a project undertaken as part of an agreement between Turkey and Somalia to make Istanbul and Mogadishu sister cities. As such, Somalian and Turkish engineers are overseeing the completion of the project.
Most people travel around the capital using taxis, minibuses and auto rickshaws, called bajaj. Rickshaws are essentially a cheaper version of the taxis and minibuses that scurry around Mogadishu’s gridlocked streets; their compact size is conducive to expedited travel around the city’s traffic-laden concourses.
Expatriates should note that large amounts of displacement have resulted in huge refugee camps that have heightened the risk of disease and crime because of poverty and lack of sustenance for those affected. Westerners are likely to be exposed to this while travelling.