Addressing health needs of women and children in Baidoa, Somalia
International Women's Day

Empowering communities in Somalia through Health Promotion and Advocacy

My name is Fatumazahra Khalif, and I began working with Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in September 2021. I have previously worked with other NGOs, but this is my first experience with MSF. I currently work as the Health Promotion and Community Engagement Manager and have worked in Kismayo in Lower Jubaland, Baidoa, Las Anod and Mudug in Somalia. Unfortunately, Las Anod was closed in 2023.

My primary role revolves around health promotion and community engagement. It is fulfilling to work with MSF, knowing that the organization provides essential medical services to communities in need. What attracted me to MSF was its humanitarian mission and proactive response to emergencies and disease outbreaks.

Fatuma Zahra, MSF Health Promotion and Community Engagement Manager in Somalia I find immense joy in empowering individuals to lead healthier lives. What keeps me inspired are the small victories—the moments when I see someone make positive changes for their well-being...
Fatuma Zahra, MSF Somalia HP Manager

Engaging with communities is a rewarding aspect of my work. I find joy in gathering testimonials from women, particularly mothers, and conducting health education sessions. One of the challenges I face is addressing mothers' concerns about vaccination. It is crucial to educate them on the importance of immunizing their children and fostering positive health-seeking behaviours. By doing so, we can make a significant impact on their overall well-being.

Another prevailing challenge in our region is the late arrival of women at the hospital, often resulting in severe complications and sometimes even death. Unfortunately, attributing blame solely to the hospital is common, yet the root cause in my personal view as health promoter lies often in poor health-seeking behaviours such as missing ante-natal or post-natal clinic appointments. Changing entrenched health-seeking behaviours presents a significant challenge, as many individuals delay seeking medical care until their conditions deteriorate.

Working with mothers and women's groups, including traditional birth attendants and healers, allows us to gather valuable insights and testimonies that guide our health education messages. Through targeted radio campaigns, community engagement, and health promotion initiatives, we aim to effect positive change gradually.

I emphasize the importance of engaging with mothers to take charge of their health and well-being, fostering positive health-seeking behaviours. Men should support their wives by accompanying or encouraging them to seek ante-natal care, as it significantly impacts maternal and child health outcomes. Other stakeholders, including elders, women's groups, religious and community leaders, must also play a role in promoting women's health awareness and preventive measures like vaccinations.

As the world commemorates International Women's Day, I echo the call for more women to hold leadership positions. I am pleased that MSF empowers women to excel in their chosen fields and ascend to top positions within the organization. I envision more women assuming leadership roles within MSF, such as Project Coordinators, Heads of Mission, and Heads of Program. I advocate for women to strive for excellence in their endeavours, showcasing their capabilities and contributions in society. It is crucial to appreciate and acknowledge the vital role women play.

Overall, working with MSF has been a fulfilling experience for me and I am grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the people in need. I am dedicated to continuing my work in health promotion and community engagement and I hope to see positive changes in the health-seeking behavior of the communities I work with.


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