Situation Worsens For Newly Displaced Families in Somalia

Geneva/New York, July 23, 2007 — Four months into the present crisis triggered by a major wave of violence in Somalia's capital city, Mogadishu, most of the 400,000 displaced people from there (398,000 according to the United Nations) have been unable to return to their homes and remain highly dependent on assistance provided by the few aid organizations present, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.

A large majority of the displaced families took refuge in Afgooye and Hawa Abdi, some 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. They are facing very precarious conditions and are surviving under trees and in abandoned public buildings. Local groups of residents have been trying their best to help families in need and provide them with basic accommodation. MSF has set up emergency medical and relief assistance to respond to the acute needs of the population.

"There are no general food distributions done on a regular basis in the area, only very few actors are present to provide aid to the displaced families," says Feisal Abdulkadir, a senior field coordinator for MSF based in Afgooye. "High market prices and no stable source of income for the displaced families constitute an additional hurdle that increases their vulnerability."

In June 2007, MSF conducted a rapid health assessment in the area where displaced people have gathered. A total of 393 households were assessed; 641 children were measured with MUAC (Middle Upper Arm Circumference) and the preliminary results indicate a global malnutrition rate of 21.5 percent and a severe acute malnutrition rate of three percent. This is a nutritional emergency according to World Health Organization (WHO) classification.

Among families interviewed, "six percent reported not having been able to eat the day before," says Dr. Monica Rull, who conducted the MSF survey in the field. "More than 60 percent of the families have no income source and 93 percent of them have already run out of food or will soon find themselves without food reserves."

During the last two months, international media attention has seldom focused on the events taking place in Somalia's capital and its surroundings, where tens of thousands of people have been desperately waiting for assistance from the international community.

MSF is calling for an immediate mobilization of aid agencies in order to respond to the rapid deterioration of the situation and prevent a major humanitarian disaster.

Since April 2007, MSF has been providing primary health care to a vulnerable population of approximately 12,000 families who have settled in Afgooye town and has been supporting the in-patient department (IPD) in Afgooye hospital. MSF is also supporting displaced people in Hawa Abdi through donations of medicines to local health structures, implementation of a cholera treatment center and water supply, and through distributions of non-food items to the new arrivals. MSF has been working in Somalia since 1991.