Displaced Fleeing War in Somalia Face Humanitarian Crisis

As violence in Somalia escalated this year to some of the worst levels in over 15 years, both assistance for and attention to one of the most challenging and acute humanitarian situations in the world seemed to wane. Ethiopian troops and Transitional Federal Government forces, supported by international partners such as the United States and the European Union, clashed with a range of armed groups, including remnants of the Islamic Courts Union. The fighting caused an unknown number of civilian casualties and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people from the capital, Mogadishu.

In 2007, MSF increased its presence in Mogadishu in different locations and opened an emergency response programme in Afgooye, just outside the capital, where an estimated 200,000 internally displaced persons sought refuge, living in extremely harsh conditions with little access to food, water, and shelter. Many of those remaining in Mogadishu are staying in makeshift camps with little more than ripped cloth and plastic sheeting for shelter and are exposed to a high degree of violence.

In a country where a 16-year conflict has resulted in some of the world's worst health indicators, with an estimated life expectancy of 47 years, few international aid organisations managed to run effective independent aid programmes.

Present since 1991, MSF increased its operations in 2007 and is now running projects in 10 out of the 11 regions of south and central Somalia. Nevertheless in many areas, especially in the Mogadishu area, MSF is extremely frustrated by its inability to reach more patients due to security concerns. In August, MSF called upon all parties to the conflict to respect the safety of medical workers and allow access to medical care in and around Mogadishu.

Throughout MSF hospitals, from Kismayo to Galcayo, the medical services provided range from primary and maternal to surgical care, with nurses and doctors treating malnutrition, tuberculosis, kala azar, cholera, and war-related trauma on a daily basis.