Ibrahim Ahmed (d. 17 December 2015)

Memories by Kalil Mohammed and Dave Michalski

The Medical Coordinator came rushing into our office in 2006, face beaming. “I’ve hired the Assistant Medical Coordinator.”  She paused and said to us, “He’s special.”  This was a woman not prone to exaggeration.  Her words were more than true.  Ibrahim Ahmed was more than just special.  He was talented, restless and determined.  He leaves behind his wife Meymuna and his young daughter Aleyah.

Sadly, this light was extinguished in a flash of brutality in Tanzania on the night of December 17th  2015.  The circumstances remain to be explained.  Those that knew him are just left with painful, senseless emptiness. 

Ibrahim Ahmed worked in the Kenyan mission and the Somali mission as national and regional staff respectively.  From national staff, he moved to coordination and then upwards in the hierarchy of MSF.  He earned a position and became the first Kenyan to work at an HQ level as the first Flying Medical support to Cell 4 and then with the Emergency Pool.  During his MSF career, he worked in Brussels, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kenya, Egypt, Mali, Niger and other contexts.  He left MSF to work with UNHCR first in Ethiopia and then in his last assignment in Tanzania.

His academic trajectory was similarly impressive.  Born in a remote town in north-east Kenya, he excelled academically, eventually becoming a clinical officer in Kenya (between a nurse and doctor), he then attained a Master in Public Health from the Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine.

His work was marked by keen observation and attention to detail, coupled with a strong desire for innovation and improvements for the patient in the field.  His tenacity was legendary, working himself to the point of medevac/exhaustion more than once.  Ibrahim was one of the key implementers of the successful telemedicine project in Somalia.  His demeanour, while always friendly, was not shy.  He would eloquently challenge the institution and individuals on many fronts.  He was and will remain a beacon to many national staff in Kenya:  the one who crashed through a perceived glass ceiling into headquarters.

When Ibrahim (may peace upon him) joined Somalia mission, I (Kalil) was logistic coordinator. It was the period when the Somalia context and security was changing swiftly and was becoming hard to operate. His open mindedness, innovativeness and willingness to improve the health status of the patients made my department obtain a clear understanding and planning on what to do next. 

After working with the mission for a while, Ibrahim decided to resign. I (Kalil) called him for a friendly meeting, explained him that he is young and there is a lot to learn from MSF. I told him that I don’t agree with his resignation plan, since he is my friend, brother and colleague and moreover the mission needed his talent. I asked him to change his mind and he accepted.  I was very happy that he accepted it for many reasons and later I witnessed Ibrahim’s growth into MSF. 

I (Kalil) got a call from a friend on 18th December 2015 and that was a painful message “about Ibrahim” Inaa Lillaah wa innaa Illaahi raaji,un (From God we come and to God we return). He was really human, a great friend, and respectful person to others. Talking about Ibrahim will take pages and pages and all I can do now is to pray for him.

As head of mission and later as Coordinator of Operations, I (Dave) have yet to meet someone who was not impressed by him.  Then again, I probably wore my bias on my sleeve.  Much like the medical coordinator, I firmly believed Ibrahim was remarkable and struggled to compose myself in the whirlwind days during the news of his death.  A friend wrote me a condolence stating it was obvious I “loved him as a son.”  The tears then started as I realized how close and hurtful this loss is.

It wasn’t all work – Ibrahim was a huge fan of Arsenal, saw U2 in Belgium and would eagerly socialize with local staff and expats.  Indeed, the memories of his work, his friendship, his laugh, his personality, his passion will remain with us.  While we pause to cherish and remember who he was, we can also wistfully contemplate what this bright star might have accomplished. 

We started working together for Cell 4 in 2009 as Flying Med, interesting, exciting and challenging work. He has maturity in his behaviour, confidence in his professional skills, and is honest and respectful towards other colleagues.

He has been an added value to Cell 4 for restarting the Afghanistan and MSF projects in conflict situations and politically complex contexts like Somalia and Egypt.

We worked together in the emergency pool as well and were both so happy to work together again, this time he got a head start in his French language from me. 

We both started working and established our life in Brussels at the same time. And due to our similar nature, being Somali and Pashtoon, we got quickly along each other, sometimes he came to my house and I was cooking for him and he appreciated it a lot.

After my family joined me here in Brussels he was visiting us sometimes. He was happy that my family joined me and my kids continued their school in peace and in the developed context of Europe. And he also gave good advice to my children.

In 2011, he was working in MSF Dubai and I passed by and stayed with him for a night, he gave me a tour in Dubai, we visited many places and ate together and chatted till early morning. He had strong motivation and plan for a successful future for his family.

Ibrahim obtained a lovely place in the heart of the SAID family, the day I shared the bad news with my family no one was believing for some movement and family telling me this is a bad joke, Ibrahim can’t go.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a joke this is the truth, Ibrahim is not anymore with us, but he will never go out of our hearts. He leaves too early and left behind his lovely family and friends.

Ibrahim’s family will miss him a lot for sure, but they should be proud of his great personality, human nature, kindness to others and respectful behaviour.

I wish him place in janate pherdous and sabra jamil for his family and friends.

Dr. Ayub SAID

By: Göran Svedin