June 06, 2007

In March and April 2007, heavy fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia, resulted in a large number of civilian casualties and thousands of people fleeing the capital. At each of its projects around the country, MSF staff witnessed the arrival of displaced people. Though by the end of May it was estimated that two-thirds of those displaced by the fighting had returned to Mogadishu, many are still unwilling or unable to do so. The following stories, gathered by MSF, come from people displaced from Mogadishu who arrived at MSF's hospital in South Galcayo in May.

"There were young men with guns stopping the bus"

Woman, 17 years old, 7 months pregnant
May 13, 2007
MSF-MDO South Galcayo Hospital, South Galcayo

"I left Mogadishu because of the fighting. I remember a lot of bullets hitting our houses. My brother died when the house was hit. We were living in a big building; the bullets damaged it heavily and killed my brother. A big bomb was then thrown at the house, which collapsed. Another family who was living in the same building was killed — five children and four adults.

After that, we all left. A group of 11 people left with me while my mother, my husband, and the other children went to the bush. I had to go to Galcayo because I'm pregnant. I couldn't go with them to the bush and now I don't even know if they are still alive. I came here alone; I'm 17 years old and this is my first baby.

I came to Galcayo by bus and we had a lot of problems on the way. There were young men with guns stopping the bus. A group of them took four girls out of the bus and raped them.

– Woman, 17 years old, 7 months pregnant

I came to Galcayo by bus and we had a lot of problems on the way. There were young men with guns stopping the bus. A group of them took four girls out of the bus and raped them. A guy who was sitting behind me saved me. He said he was my husband and that I was pregnant. I do not know who these men were. They then brought the women back to the bus and, after robbing us all, they ordered the driver to go. Those women told me that it was not the first time it happened to them. They were going to Bossasso and when I stopped in Galcayo, they continued. They did not go to the hospital.

I have no family in Galcayo, so when I came here I started to work in the house of some people and when the woman saw that I was sick, she sent me to the hospital. I stopped in Galcayo because I didn't have enough money to go further. Most people fleeing Mogadishu go to Bossasso, Burco, and other places in the North. But you need more money to get that far."

"Militia shot our car without telling us to stop"

Man, late 30s, school teacher
May 13, 2007
MSF-MDO South Galcayo Hospital, South Galcayo

"I came to Galcayo 11 days ago because of the bad situation in Mogadishu; there was a lot of shelling, many explosions. I lived in Mogadishu for a long time and this time it was the worst fighting I had ever seen: many dead bodies on the roads; many women and children hurt in the fighting, just while walking in the street. People could not leave their houses.

We left both the dead and the injured in the local hospital, although they told us they had no medicines.

– Man, late 30s, school teacher

I came to Galcayo with my family. On the road to Galcayo, we faced a lot of roadblocks. They stopped us and asked us for money; otherwise, they would take our goods and the car. Since the fighting started, the gangs on the road increased. The journey here took three days, with militias and gangs frequently attacking our car. At one point, militia shot our car without telling us to stop; we were ready to give our goods, but they just shot instead. One passenger was killed and one was injured. It was at night; there was no hospital around there and two hours later the man who was badly injured died. Then we reached a small town and we left both the dead and the injured in the local hospital, although they told us they had no medicines.

I came to Galcayo because my sister lives here and I was looking for a job. I had a good job in Mogadishu; I was a teacher, but when the fighting started, the school was closed and all the children and teachers left. Here it is more peaceful.

I am here in Galcayo hospital now because one of my children is sick. In Mogadishu, some hospitals closed because of the fighting, some were destroyed by shells, and those which remained open became very full.

In Mogadishu, I saw a lot of destruction: shells destroyed many buildings with women and children inside. A lot of people have left the city and went to the nearby towns of Barcad, Afgooye, Jowhar, Huddur, Miiraan, or Belet Weeyne. My uncle died in Mogadishu after a shell hit his house. My mother and brother still live near Mogadishu and will stay there until peace returns."

"Young people remember where their
families died and do not want to go back there"

Woman, 27 years old
May 19, 2007
MSF-MDO South Galcayo Hospital, South Galcayo

"I came from Mogadishu one month ago. I saw a lot of children and young boys killed and injured; the numbers were uncountable. People with guns just shoot. I saw a man buying water and a militia guy shot at his water; I saw his skin was burnt, but we could not help him.

We lost everything. I only have my daughter with me. I don't know what happened to the rest of my family.

– Woman, 27 years old

Our house was hit and destroyed by an explosion. Some died and some fled to other places; we came to Galcayo. Now we don't have a house and we have lost all our goods. We lost everything. I only have my daughter with me. I don't know what happened to the rest of my family. I left without knowing where they went. I was told that my aunt and brother are dead; some of my family were injured and are now in a hospital in Mogadishu. I don't know where my husband is; he didn't leave Mogadishu because he's sick, he has malaria.

I first went to Ba'adwin. A lot of people left Mogadishu and went to the bush and stayed in the countryside of Ba'adwin, for example. They say they don't want to go back to Mogadishu even if peace returns, including those whose houses were not destroyed. Young people remember where their families died and do not want to go back there.

My sister is now staying outside Ba'adwin. She has nine children; six of them were at school but they had to evacuate and now they are not learning. She says she doesn't want to go back to Mogadishu.

I was six months pregnant when I left Mogadishu, but I lost my baby. I think I started to have problems while we were leaving in the car. I lost the baby when I was at home in Ba'adwin. Then I had a lot of pain and bleeding. I managed to get to Galcayo hospital after 12 hours on the bus from Ba'adwin. I left my daughter in Ba'adwin; she is one-and-a-half years old."

"There was a bad smell of dead people"

Woman, 30 years old, with 2 children (3 years old and 1 year and 7 months old)
May 19, 2007
South Galcayo Hospital, South Galcayo

"It all started with one explosion that hit my neighbors' house and killed them. After that, there were continuous explosions in our neighbourhood; many people died and the houses were destroyed. There was a bad smell of dead people. There was no one to collect the dead bodies and we could not even put them on the side of the street because of the fighting . . . dead women and dead children.

There were continuous explosions in our neighborhood; many people died and the houses were destroyed.

– Woman, 30 years old, with 2 children

We had to leave. We had no money, nothing to eat. I went with my two children by foot to Afgooye, 30 km (18.6 miles) west of Mogadishu. It was many hours of walking, but we were not alone; a lot of people were walking on the same road with us, people who did not know each other.

I then found people who were going to Galcayo by car and left Afgooye with my children. On the way to the north, my money finished, but the people who were travelling with me in the car collected money for me; this way I could make it to Galcayo. My husband had called me when I was still in Mogadishu and said he was in Galcayo; he said he was planning to leave the country by car. But, when I arrived, he was not there any longer.

In Galcayo, I did not know anyone I could stay with, so when I arrived, I went to an IDP camp. Then I asked people in South Galcayo; I said I needed a place to sleep and now I sleep outside their house with my children. I am sick now and my children are also sick. I came to this hospital to get treatment. Before leaving, I had always lived in Mogadishu."