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The Medic Who Decided to Change Somalia’s Frontline Services

On the way to and from his dental clinic every day, Dr. Abdulkadir Abdirahman Adan was appalled by an all-too-common sight: severely injured and dead Somalis being transported to hospitals in wooden hand carts or wheelbarrows. This was in 2006 in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, when government troops, bolstered by Ethiopian forces, were engaged in a brutal war with Islamist fighters that saw thousands of people killed and many more mutilated in the violence. “I asked myself, ‘How can I help my people?’” Dr. Adan said recently in an interview at his office. His first step was modest: He rented a minibus, painted blue and white in the color of Somalia’s flag, and paid its owners a few dollars a day to carry the injured to safety. And so began Aamin Ambulance: the first and still the only free ambulance service operating in the capital of over three million people. Since Aamin Ambulance was founded, there have been few periods of extended peace in Mogadishu, with Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, continuing to carry out frequent attacks. Responding to terrorist attacks is hardly the service’s only mission. It also transports sick children, mothers in labor, accident victims and anyone else in need of urgent care. Through its 999 hotline, the team fields a minimum of three dozen calls a day.