East Africa Famine: Children and SOS staff flee fighting in Mogadishu
The SOS Hospital and complex in Mogadishu, Somalia, has once again come under threat from crossfire.
"Staff fled from Hospital"
Yesterday, the children and staff from the SOS Children’s Village in Mogadishu as well as staff and patients from the SOS Hospital had to be evacuated due to intensive fighting between government/AU troops and the Al Shabaab group. All children and staff are now sheltering in SOS safehouses,13km away.
The SOS Children National Director for Somalia, Ahmed Ibrahim, has told Reuters that government troops and AU peacekeepers have been advancing towards the northern segment of Mogadishu for the last three or four days. "We have been getting stray bullets in the hospital. We evacuated children ... Patients started running away and some of the staff fled from the hospital," Ahmed Ibrahim said.
Dahir Abdulle, a nurse at the SOS Hospital described a deserted hospital ward. "Today, anti-aircraft gun shots deafened us-then a stray bullet hit the veil of a patient's relative. I took cover inside the dispensary. After minutes, I came out but could not see a single patient," he told Reuters. "Relatives rushed patients who still had I.V. drips attached to them."
Ahmed Ibrahim said the area had been quiet since Al Shabaab had announced their withdrawal from Mogadishu, a move the group said was tactical."Since they announced they pulled out, we didn't have any trouble. The level of mortar shelling had gone down, but it was only this morning when people woke up when they heard the sound of bullets and saw stray bullets landing in the area," said Ibrahim.
The SOS Hospital is still operational but with only few staff, and with very few, severely ill patients. There has been some structural damage to the Village complex, but nothing substantial.
The unstable security situation in Mogadishu is putting in danger tens of thousands of famine-hit Somali refugees who are flooding into the capital looking for food.
“Mogadishu is one of the main areas where we wanted to concentrate on aid for starving children and families in urgent need of proper medical care" says Ahmed, but “the latest incident in Mogadishu may complicate our efforts.”
Worst drought for over 60 years
The drought which is currently engulfing parts of East Africa is the worst to hit the region in over 60 years. According to the United Nations, over 12.4 million people are now facing starvation, with entire families and communities abandoning their homes in desperate search of food and water.
Somalia has been the country hardest hit, with the UN declaring a famine in its Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions. After two decades of non-stop fighting, many of Somalia's population do not only face severe food shortages, but the constant threat of violence and conflict.
Desperate to survive, thousands of drought-affected families from all over the Bay and Bakool regions in central Somalia have moved south to the dangerous city of Mogadishu in search of food and medical care. Nearly 50,000 displaced people are now living in this area, primarily in two large refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. It is estimated that 1,000 children and families arrive in Mogadishu every day – many have travelled for days, if not weeks, and are severely malnourished.
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