A 21-year-old student innovates to fill COVID-19 ventilator shortage in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A 21-year-old Somali mechanical engineer has invented a home-made respirator, in a dramatic innovation informed by the spiking cases of Coronavirus in his country, coupled with the almost dysfunctional healthcare system, that exposes risks of hundreds of people.
Mohamed Adawe becomes the first Somali national to offer a real solution to a disaster which could leave hundreds dead, with his motherland now glaring at a possible stalemate, due to shortages of ventilators and even ICU beds in the war-torn nation.
As of Sunday, Somalia had registered 722 positive cases of COVID-19, the second worst-hit nation in the Horn of Africa after Djibouti, which has recorded over 1,100. Of these cases, 32 have died while 44 have since recovered, the health department said.
It's this outright danger which informed the young engineer to put his skills into practice, with an intention of helping the country supplement machines given by friendly nations. At the start of the crisis, Somalia barely had a ventilator, according to statistics from the World Health Organization.
"We don’t have economic might or a strong government in Somalia. To respond to this bad disease, I produced this device at a time when our people are suffering from a shortage of oxygen equipment," Adawe told Euronews in an interview.
Although not an ideal ventilator, the respirator has the capacity to resuscitate patients with breathing difficulties, thus able to save as many lives. The device, add, is mobile and can be attached to the victim's face enabling social distancing.
"This device is used for patients in emergency situations, especially those who are having difficulty breathing. It is immediately useable for saving lives," he said, adding that there was a real need for the invention.
"So, my automated device can be attached to the patient's face and moved away from them, as a social distancing measure."
Currently, Somalia is using Martini Hospital within the capital, Mogadishu as the only isolation facility, although some military outlets within Halane Base Camp are also helping to host those already infected with the disease.
The invention, Adawe reckons, would help mitigate the problem albeit temporarily, even as Somalia reaches out to friends to help contain the situation. His invention is cost-effective and would help the country save millions of lives, he noted.
"With my device, we can fight against COVID-19 while our country is facing a shortage of oxygen devices - and while other countries of the world hold ventilators and other devices in their warehouses," said the youthful engineer.
Dr. Hussein Abdi-Aziz Abdulkadir, Director of the Somali Syrian Hospital in Mogadishu, hailed the significance of Adawe's invention, arguing that "it's timely and paramount".
"In the past, you always had to use your hands to squeeze the airbag of the device, to clear the airway of the patient," he told the publication. "But now Mohamed Adawe has automated the device to help patients clear their airway and help with breathing at a time when there is an urgent need for this."
It's hoped Mohamad Adawe's innovation will help save lives: not just because it aids the patient in breathing, but also because it allows doctors to keep a safer distance from them, reducing the risk of contagion.
The development comes just hours after Turkey dispatched a consignment of medical supplies to Mogadishu to help contain the virus. On Sunday, several masks, overalls, and medical supplies were received in Somalia.
On Monday, a military plane from Ankara also disembarked at Aden Adde International Airport, carrying stretchers, ICU beds, and quilt covers, the third donation from Turkey, which is turning out to be one of Somalia's most trusted partner.
To contain the spread of COVID-19, Somalia has among others, restricted movements in Mogadishu and several other parts of the country besides suspending domestic and international flights, authorities said.
Most of the cases were discovered in Mogadishu, a move which informed the recent curfew, which is meant to curb the spread. Although the deaths stand at 32, Mogadishu Mayor Omar Filish on Friday said over 500 people have died in the last two weeks, although he did not attribute their deaths to Coronavirus.