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Child casualties soar in Somalia

The number of children hurt in fighting in Somalia has risen massively, the United Nations says.

Children under five years old suffered nearly half the 1,590 injuries caused by weapons last month, said the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO). With the percentage of April’s child casualties at 3.5 per cent, it marks a sharp rise.

"This is the highest number of injured children that has been reported since the beginning of this year," the WHO’s Marthe Everard told the UN's humanitarian news agency, IRIN.

Children who died in the fighting were mostly killed by burns, chest injuries and internal haemorrhage from blasts, shrapnel and bullets.

Fighting between interim government troops and Islamist militants in the horn of Africa country’s capital, Mogadishu heated up in March, especially around the sprawling Bakara market. More than 3,900 patients injured in the conflict have been admitted to the capital’s three main hospitals. For many ordinary people, who have fled their homes to escape the violence, the Mogadishu market is one of the cheapest places to rent accommodation. And these people are particularly vulnerable during flash points because most of the fighting happens in the streets.

UN trauma surgeon Dr Omar Saleh has just run a course for health workers in Mogadishu about how to deal with injured children because of the big rise in the number of children affected.

"It's a recent thing, maybe due to the change of the type of the conflict," he told the BBC.

"Mostly burns and chest injuries, due to pressure, shrapnel and bullets - in that order," he said.

"Three days ago in Mogadishu, I saw two children coming to the hospital with third-degree burns; one of them was almost half of his body.

"Another kid was five years old; he had a bullet in his head; he's half paralysed."
Somalia has been dogged by constant war for longer than 20 years – its last functioning national government was toppled in 1991. Its unstable transitional government is backed by 9,000 African Union troops in its fight against the Islamist al-Shabab group, which is linked to al-Qaeda and controls the most part of the country.

UN humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental organization partners have requested about £36million to fund health services in Somalia this year, but only £6million or 16 per cent of the appeal has been received so far.

Hayley attribution