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MSF in Somalia, 2008
Field Staff: 1,348
Reason for Intervention:
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For many years Somalis have been subjected to violence, forced to flee their homes, and denied adequate food and access to healthcare. A range of factors, including the collapse of the local economy, the inability to transport and deliver food aid, drought, inflation, high international food prices, and a drastic reduction in humanitarian aid have exacerbated people’s already appalling living conditions.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) experienced the impact of Somalia's insecurity firsthand in January, when three MSF field workers were killed and three projects in Kismayo, Mogadishu, and Bosasso were forced to close. In April, intense fighting across the country and specific threats against foreign aid workers forced MSF to evacuate all of its international staff from Somalia. However, MSF’s projects continue, run by dedicated Somali staff, supported by international staff based in Nairobi who visit whenever security allows.
On the road from Mogadishu to Afgooye, where thousands of people have been forced to flee the violence of the capital, there are thought to be more than 300,000 displaced people living in terrible conditions. MSF has been in the area since 2007: supporting a private clinic; running an outpatient department, pediatric ward, cholera treatment center, and nutrition program; and managing the distribution of water, blankets, and other non-food items.
During 2008, MSF staff saw a huge rise in the number of children needing nutritional care in its intensive and mobile feeding centers in Hawa Abdi and Afgooye. Medical teams treated more than 15,500 malnourished children under the age of five. More than 2,000 of the children were admitted to intensive care, but most were cared for as outpatients.
In Mogadishu, staff in the surgery department of Danilye hospital treated 5,250 patients in the emergency room, including more than 3,000 people wounded in the conflict. More than half the patients were women and children under the age of 14. At an outpatient clinic in Mogadishu North, a further 1,400 patients who had been operated on for war-related injuries were provided with dressings. Nutrition was also a key concern, and early in the year, MSF teams started a program for severely malnourished children. Some 1,800 patients were admitted and treated. Throughout the country, MSF treated more than 18,400 children for severe malnutrition and more than 16,000 children for moderate malnutrition.
Although most international attention focused on the capital and its surroundings, MSF teams responded to huge needs in nine regions of south and central Somalia. To the north in Galcayo, medical staff treated 470 victims of violence over the course of the year. In Galgaduud, more than 600 people were operated on.
Yet it is not just victims of violence who need assistance in Somalia. Curable and preventable diseases such as diarrhea, malaria, and respiratory tract infections cause many thousands of deaths every year. Basic healthcare, such as antenatal consultations and vaccinations, were crucial to MSF’s efforts to save lives. Medical staff provided more than 727,000 outpatient consultations, 55,000 antenatal consultations, 82,000 vaccinations, and, in Jowhar, 1,500 deliveries.
MSF has worked in Somalia since 1991.