Cholera Epidemic and Several Weeks of Intense Fighting in Mogadishu, Somalia

Many people in the Somali capital cannot access badly needed health services

New York, 11 April 2007 – Since cholera was confirmed in Mogadishu on March19, 2007, the international humanitarian medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated more than 800 patients. However the recent worsening violence is making it increasingly difficult for patients to access MSF's cholera treatment center (CTC), which opened two weeks ago. The fighting is also preventing MSF national staff from reaching other areas of the city.

"So far we have received more than 800 patients, 40% of them children," says Henry Rodréguez, medical coordinator for MSF in Somalia. "This is more than the total number of cholera patients MSF treated in the last years in Mogadishu, where MSF has worked for 15 years and responded to 12 different cholera epidemics. The cause of this growth is mostly because other health structures in other areas of Mogadishu are not able to function because of the violence. It's also impossible to do the necessary things to try and control the outbreak, like supply clean water or establish points for oral re-hydration ".

Because of the fighting the population cannot access the scarce health services at hospitals and health centers that continue to function in the Somali capital. The MSF clinic in Mogadishu carries out more than 100,000 consultations each year.

The fighting has caused massive displacement as people flee to the outskirts of the capital and towards other cities like Jowhar. There are reports of tens of thousands of people being received by extended family or friends. Many people, though, are living under trees without shelter, food or water.

The insecurity impedes the deployment of much needed aid, leaving people without the necessary assistance. MSF international staff are unable to reinforce the efforts of the Somali teams who are running the programs.

MSF is concerned about the security of patients and health personnel and urges the parties involved in the conflict to respect civilians and humanitarian aid workers.

"We are increasingly worried about people's limited ability to access the few health structures that are still able to function," said Javier Fernández, Head of Mission for MSF in Somalia. "And we know there are tens of thousands of displaced people on the outskirts of Mogadishu whom we simply can't access."

MSF is a neutral and impartial aid organization that has been providing assistance in Somalia since 1991.