Somalia: Surge in Wounded and Displaced as Violence Increases in Mogadishu

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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MSF Teams Providing Assistance Amidst Difficult Security Conditions

Nairobi/Geneva/New York, October 2, 2008 — The recent escalation in fighting in one of Mogadishu’s most populated residential areas has resulted in a surge of wounded civilians and has once again displaced thousands of people. The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is treating some of the wounded and is providing basic relief supplies to newly displaced people.

As of last week, MSF had treated more than 100 wounded people in the Dayniile hospital, located on the outskirts of the capital. The wounded, many of whom are women and children under 16 years-of-age, had suffered head, abdomen, and chest injuries caused by mortar rounds or bullets, with many of them requiring emergency surgery.

On the road from Mogadishu to Afgooye, where more than 250,000 displaced people are living in appalling conditions, MSF has seen the arrival of at least 9,000 more people since last Wednesday. Teams are trying to provide them with essential supplies including soap, plastic sheeting, and blankets. However, these basic items will only meet initial emergency needs. People are completely dependent on external food aid to survive, but assistance is provided intermittently. Families who just fled the violence in Mogadishu are met with a lack of shelter, food, and health care.

The situation is appalling," said Kenneth Lavelle, MSF head of mission based in Nairobi who is in daily contact with MSF field teams. Because of the constant flow of people fleeing Mogadishu, the camps are getting more and more crowded and already atrocious living conditions are rapidly deteriorating. Families of five have less than a few square meters to settle in, without proper shelter," he said.

MSF has been working in health centers in Hawa Abdi and Afgooye since 2007 and has treated more than 1,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition every month since April 2008. Working conditions—primarily the lack of security for the population and for aid workers—prevent any significant increase in this vital aid.

"Despite all of the insecurity, MSF has still been able to respond thanks to our Somali colleagues, who are taking tremendous risks to provide immediate assistance," said Lavelle. "Due to the security situation, we are unable to meet any needs other than the immediate, life-saving needs. This includes medical care, nutrition, and sanitation. Our response is most certainly inadequate when taking into account the gravity of the situation."

MSF staff in Dayniile hospital have treated 3,700 people suffering from trauma injuries since the beginning of 2008. More than half of these are women and children under 14, with half of the patients treated for injuries sustained during fighting.

MSF has carried out 32,982 medical consultations and cared for 6,937 children suffering from acute malnutrition in its Hawa Abdi and Afgooye health centers since April 2008.