The first Forensic Center in Puntland and Whole of Somalia

In Garowe, Puntland, the official launch of the first forensic laboratory in Puntland, and Somalia as a whole, has taken place on September 06, 2017. The launch was attended by high level delegation from the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Somalia Country Representative, and high-level ministers from the Puntland State of Somalia. The establishment of this first-of-its-kind laboratory – Puntland Forensic Center (PFC) – in Puntland, Somalia was made possible by a generous donation from the Swedish government which was administered and facilitated by the UNFPA.

Until October 2, 2017; the operations of the center were under the Puntland Ministry of Health while other ministries and government entities are major stakeholders of the forensic center. However, the Vice-President of the government of Puntland State of Somalia Mr. Abdihakim Abdullahi Haji Omar, after consultations with the entities concerned, has appreciated the need for this laboratory becoming an autonomous body under the leadership of trained scientist with doctoral degree. The Vice-President, Mr. Abdihakim Abdullahi Haji Omar, also acknowledged the need for establishing a governance board which will serve as the oversight board of the center’s overall operations (please see the presidential decree).

Dr. Abdirashid Mohamed Shire

As the presidential decree shows, Abdirashid Mohamed Shire., Ph.D., was appointed as the Chief Scientific Officer of the Puntland Forensic Center. Abdirashid completed his B.Sc. in Biological Sciences in 1988 from Lafole College of Education, Somali National University. On February 1989, Abdirashid became an Assistant Lecturer of Biological Sciences at the college – the position he held until January 1991. Abdirashid received a scholarship in 1994 to enroll an M.Sc. program in Medical Parasitology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), University of London which he completed in 1995.  He was a staff member at LSHTM between 1996 and 2001. While he was working at LSHTM, he matriculated a Ph.D. program in Parasite Molecular Biology in 1999 which he completed in 2003.

Abdirashid moved to the United States at the end of 2003 and on January 2004 became a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Iowa, Iowa City. Abdirashid’s research at the University of Iowa was on mutations in a gene that was believed to be very important in the disease that he was studying. Abdirashid then relocated in 2005 to Rochester, Minnesota and began his eight and half-year career at Mayo Clinic where he has reached an Assistant Professorship rank when he was leaving at Mayo Clinic in June 2013. Abdirashid’s research at Mayo Clinic was on liver diseases primarily liver and bile duct cancers – he particularly studied different genes as well as mechanisms that regulated the levels of the genes and their functions. Abdirashid also performed clinical studies on hepatitis B virus and hepatitis C virus as both viruses are major risk factors for liver cancer. Between August 2013 and August 2015, Abdirashid was an Assistant Professor at King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences, Al Ahsa, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This long academic journey of Abdirashid went through Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. Since 2015, Abdirashid has been involved in consulting work – both in the United States and Puntland, Somalia.

Abdirashid has 25 major publications including peer-reviewed manuscripts, review articles, editorials and book chapter. Abdirashid has also published 20 abstracts and presented both at national and international meetings.  Please see Dr. Abdirashid Shire’s major academic publications

Dr. Abdirashid Shire told Puntland Post that forensic science area is the application of science in solving crimes such as those related to Gender-based Violence. Abdirashid added that the laboratory of the center is equipped with the latest deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) based technology and it can scientifically differentiate between individuals using genetic fingerprinting. Abdirashid mentioned that the biological forensic results from the laboratory will assist in the investigation, prosecution and conviction of ONLY those who perpetrated heinous crimes. Abdirashid believes that is huge milestone in Somalia in establishing a laboratory capable of performing DNA testing. Dr. Abdirashid Shire concluded by saying that “he is very humbled and at the same excited by the responsibility he gladly accepted and he promised, with the help of God, that he will serve the state and country with utmost professionalism and integrity.”