Somalia - MSF calls for respect of the neutrality of medical facilities

On 5 May 2010 a private dispute escalated into a violent clash in the area surrounding Hawa Abdi clinic in Somalia. This triggered the occupation of the medical premises. An armed group continues to be present in some parts of the clinic compound and a number of MSF non-medical staff are still being detained. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had to evacuate its patients and suspend its activities, leaving thousands of Somali living in the Afgooye corridor without access to health care.

“We have been able to work in Somalia for the last 19 years because we do not take sides in any conflict,” explains Head of Mission David QUEROL, “We are committed to assisting the Somali people, but can only do so if the medical structures where we work and our staff are respected.”

MSF is deeply saddened by the confirmed loss of two lives during this incident, including one of its employees, a clinic guard.

The organisation urgently calls for the release of its employees and the full respect of the neutrality of medical facilities and staff. The Hawa Abdi compound must be vacated immediately so that life-saving medical activities can resume.  

MSF has worked in the Afgooye corridor since 2007. In Hawa Abdi, MSF runs an outpatient department, paediatric inpatient department, cholera and diarrhoea treatment centre, nutrition programme, water trucking and distribution of blankets and other non-food items. In Afgooye MSF runs an outpatient department as well as an ambulatory feeding programme and supports the activities of the hospital by providing drugs and medical materials, as well as paying staff incentives. In 2009, over 162,000 people received consultations and free medication in these facilities. More than 14,000 malnourished children were treated and over 31,000 children were vaccinated against measles.

MSF has worked in Somalia since 1991 and currently provides free medical care in Banadir, Bay, Hiraan, Lower Juba, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle and Mudug Regions. Over 1,300 Somali staff, supported by approximately 100 staff in Nairobi provide primary health care, malnutrition treatment, health care and support to displaced people, surgery, water and relief supply distributions.