MSF Withdraws From Somalia After 22 Years of Operations

Security is and has always been the major concern for teams working in Somalia. It remains the only place where MSF employs armed guards for its protection. Several camps for displaced people are located around the town of Guri-el. People have been fleeing violence (and more recently the drought). They have abandoned everything and live in very basic makeshift shelters. An MSF teamcarries out medical and nutritional consultations several times a week in the camps. Somalia’s humanitarian crisis continues to be one of the worst in the world. This year, Somalis have faced the devastating effects of drought, compounding a long-lasting conflict and the absence of a functioning health care system. Throughout 2011 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ran medical projects in up to 22 different locations in south-central Somalia, the epicenter of the crisis, as well as large-scale programs in the Somali refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya. In the period from May to December 2011, MSF treated over 95,000 patients for malnutrition, and treated over 6,000 patients for measles and vaccinated almost 235,000 children against the disease. Within its various health care structures MSF assisted in over 5,500 deliveries and provided over 450,000 consultations. However, despite intense negotiations with armed groups, access to the most affected regions inside south-central Somalia has remained difficult. MSF first worked in Somalia in 1979 and has been present in the country with few interruptions since 1991, when a civil war erupted following the downfall of the country's dictator, Siad Barre. MSF has worked in several locations: Baidoa, Dinsor, Huddur, Jamaame, Jowhar, Kismayo, Marere, and the capital, Mogadishu, in the south; Galcayo and Guri El in the north-central area; and Belet Weyne in central Somalia. Teams have addressed a host of different crises in their many projects, focusing in particular on nutrition, emergency care for people wounded in conflict, mother and child healthcare, and treatment of infectious diseases, including cholera, measles, kala azar, and tuberculosis (TB). MSF is the only international organization providing medical and nutritional care in Guri-el town in Galgaduud region of South Central Somalia..Previously, more than 15 international staff were based here but they had to be withdrawn due to security threats. Somalis employed and trained by MSF now run the hospital, regional MSF staff from Somali origin ran the emergency projects. Access to health care is a major issue in Somalia. In a circle of 150km around Guri-el, there are no medical doctors except for those at the MSF supported hospital.
Peter Casaer/MSF
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