Somalia’s only free ambulance service running out of cash

Among the first rescuers rushing to the scene of Somalia’s deadliest truck bombing last year were, as usual, members of the country’s only free ambulance service, Aamin Ambulance.

Founded over a decade ago by a Somali dentist and funded by donations, Aamin Ambulance has become an essential lifeline for ordinary folk, whether victims of armed violence, car accidents or a complicated birth.

Now it is running out of cash.

“This service is what people rely on in times of crisis, but we might have to suspend operations due to financial constraints,” said Abdulkadir Adan, the 45-year-old founder. He blamed escalating running costs as demand for the service has grown.

Adan trained as a dentist in Pakistan and returned in 2006 to Somalia, where he was appalled by the lack of free ambulances in the capital Mogadishu, a city of around two million.

From his Bakara market dental practice he saw “women delivering babies rushed to hospital on a wheelbarrow”.

Inspired by the work of Pakistani philanthropist Abdul Sattar Edhi — whose Edhi Foundation runs a network of free ambulances — Adan spent $4,200 (3,700 euros) of his own money on a converted minibus ambulance.

Today, Aamin has a fleet of 16 ambulances, employs 36 medics, drivers and support staff and costs upwards of $12,000 a month to run.

Funding has come from diaspora Somalis, businessmen and even Adan’s own students at a medical school in the city, who he encourages to donate after lectures.

Mogadishu’s worst day

The ambulances are often among the first on the scene of regular bombings by Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militants in Mogadishu which leave hundreds dead and maimed annually.

Following the October 2017 truck bombing that killed over 500 people, donations spiked as a spotlight was thrown on Aamin’s work, but a year on the money is drying up.

“If it was not for the sacrifices made by the team, many people who are alive today would be dead,” said Adan.

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