In 2015 I documented daily life inside the Mental Health Unit of the Hargeisa Group Hospital for the Italian NGO GRT .
The ongoing situation of instability due to the aftermath of the civil war in Somalia and the living conditions of the internal refugees have created a vast number of people suffering from different kinds of mental problems (one in three according to the WHO). On top of that, the use of Qaat, a widespread, legal drug in Somaliland, creates a large number of drug abusers. In Hargeysa there are plenty of private hospitals and clinics. Most of these clinics tend to chain patients until they get better; a very common method of dealing with the mentally ill and even disabled relatives in Somaliland. It has even become a very lucrative business. Not so in the Mental Health Unit I documented, where chains are immediately removed when the patients arrive. They get medication (when available) and have meetings with Dr. Mustafa. Heart of the Unit is nurse Maryam, who has worked there ever since the inauguration of the clinic in the 90s. Nurse Maryam is highly trusted by actual and former patients, who she also visits at home for follow ups on a regular basis. Relapses are common and many patients return to the clinic frequently, since conditions at home remain difficult. For many of them, the Unit represents a safe harbor, where they find peace and comfort in particularly difficult moments.