27th Oct 2016


Healthcare without borders

The town hospital of Guriceel, in the Galguduud region in central Somalia, is understaffed.

The doctors who once worked there have all but fled the fighting that has afflicted the country for decades. Those who remain often lack education. But they do have an internet connection.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Video-streaming is heling hospitals in Africa to overcome staffing problems (Photo: US Army Africa)

Since January 2011, the hospital’s paediatrics department is able to consult with a specialist based in Nairobi, in neighbouring Kenya, via live video streaming. The specialist, himself a Somali national, helps establish the right diagnosis and even talks to the patients’ parents.

The project, a pilot initiative of Doctors Without Borders, is already paying off, Bienvenu Baruani, project coordinator in Nairobi, tells EUobserver. Not only do the children of Guriceel receive better healthcare, its doctors are learning, he says.

"At first, 90 percent of diagnoses were changed after specialist consultation. Now, it is about 60 percent."

A phone and a lifeline

If there is one part of the world where the coming of new technologies can make a difference in people's health, it is the poor regions.

Access to healthcare is often difficult: Distances may be great, treatments expensive, and doctors few.

Yet while Internet connectivity remains low (less than one third), mobile phones have all but infested the developing world.

According to the UN’s telecommunication agency, 79 percent of people in the developing world (including China) have a mobile phone subscription - compared to 87 percent globally.

Mobile broadband is still a rarity, but will no doubt become more prevalent as prices for both internet and mobile phone subscriptions continue to drop dramatically.

Phones, it is believed, will help the poor to talk to doctors, report on the spread of diseases, or be reminded to bring the kids in for vaccination. Broadband internet will help them to do much more, like it does for the doctors of Guriceel.

A new study by The Boston Consulting Group claims that mobile health technology can reduce maternal and perinatal mortality by 30 percent; improve tuberculosis treatment compliance by 30 to 70 percent; and double the number of rural patients per doctor.

The World Health Organisation believes there is "great potential" in e-health, "particularly for rural and underserved communities in developing countries."

The World Bank believes it "allows low-income countries to leapfrog [towards better healthcare]," Armin Fidler, the bank's lead health adviser, told EUobserver. "Because it is readily accessible, relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated."

The bank's borrowers seem to agree. "We are client-driven," says Fidler. "And clearly increasingly in middle and lower-income countries, [investment in e-health] is what clients demand."

Meanwhile, in Somalia...

One year after the start of the project, mortality rates have gone down at the paediatrics department in the town hospital of Guriceel. In May, the gynaecology department hopes to start a similar project.

For his part, Baruani, the project coordinator in Nairobi, is convinced of the potential of such projects for healthcare in other poor parts of Africa.

"It is the choice of the future," he says. "The technology itself is not that difficult. All you need is an internet connection. It really is quite simple."

Poland defies EU on rule of law

Prime minister Szydlo said the European Commission concerns over rule of law in Poland were political grudges.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ANCI LazioAnci Lazio Definetely has a lot to Celebrate This Year
  2. EU-China ForumDebating the Future of the EU-China Relations on 28 November in Prague
  3. COMECEMigrants: From Fear to Compassion
  4. Birdlife EuropeBusiness as Usual - Juncker Snubs Environment and Protects Broken CAP
  5. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  6. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  7. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  8. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  9. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  10. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  11. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  12. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum

Latest News

  1. Greece to probe UN allegations of illegal returns
  2. Poland defies EU on rule of law
  3. Belgium breaks Ceta deadlock
  4. Left MEPs thwarting Dieselgate probe, say right MEPs
  5. Cars should be allowed to exceed emissions limits, say experts
  6. EU case against Google is bad for developers
  7. Privacy activists mount court challenge to EU-US data pact
  8. Thousands of Nato soldiers go to Baltic states, Romania