Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, has been at the centre of violent conflict between government troops and the Al-Shabab group. The clashes have intensified in recent weeks, and have seriously affected SOS services in the area. For the first time since SOS Children set up operations in Mogadishu in 1985, all of our facilities have had to be totally abandoned due to insecurity.
On Monday 10th October, artillery shells hit the SOS Hospital and pharmacy located in the city. Sadly, one member of staff working for SOS Children was killed in the attacks. Ali Shabye, in his mid-50s, was one of the laundry staff who had worked with our organisation since 1994.
As patients fled the hospital, SOS staff attempted to move the very sick to safety, but the situation forced most to scatter. Patients included 40 women from the maternity unit, some of whom had just given birth by caesarean section, and children being treated for severe malnutrition. It is feared some may have died shortly after fleeing. Speaking to Reuters, Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, director of SOS Children in Somalia, said "The hospital cannot function at the moment. This zone has become a battlefield."
SOS Children chief executive Dr Andrew Cates said: “Our hearts go out to the family of our colleague who lost his life working for the people of Somalia. This is not the first time we have lost a colleague in this unstable and violent city. The hospital will reopen but the maternity unit has been damaged and right now no one knows how soon we can start again.”
SOS facilities were also affected by conflict in mid-August, when the SOS Children’s Village was evacuated. Thankfully, there have been no casualties in the Village, but one of the family houses was partially damaged. As a precaution, SOS Children took the decision to evacuate all families to safe houses 13km away. While security staff and a gardener remained on the premises, they too were evacuated for their safety late this Monday evening; and all are reported to be safe. The Village is now occupied by Government / Allied troops.
The hospital's paediatric pharmacy was seriously damaged in the fighting and Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim is now concerned that both the SOS Children's Village and the hospital will be completely destroyed if both forces continue shelling one another. There are unconfirmed reports that Al-Shabab have retreated, but the situation is not clear. Ahmed says “it is not acceptable for anyone to occupy a Children’s Village or hospital – it is a crime against humanity to do so.”
The need to reopen the SOS Hospital is also a matter of grave concern to staff who are worried about the wellbeing of their patients who are in need of urgent care. In September alone, the hospital administered medical services to almost 7,000 individuals. The fate of the hospital’s 2,600 patients is unclear, as a coordinated evacuation plan was not possible over the weekend due to the abrupt nature of the evacuation order
There have been no reports that our ongoing Emergency Relief operations at the Badbado refugee camp in the city have been affected.
On 4 October, a suicide bomb killed more than 80 people in the city; many of whom were students awaiting exam results outside the ministry of education. Al-Shabab who claimed responsibility for the bomb that exploded without warning, has warned of further attacks. SOS Children remain vigilant and will only return children and staff to our facilities when they are completely safe.
Latest report from Mogadishu
SOS Children's messaging advisor, Tommy Standun explains the harsh situation we are facing with our Village being evacuated and taken over by the Somali government, and our hospital across the street also evacuated. The body of the SOS employee has not been moved yet despite pleas for this to happen.
(VOA Somali Service)
SOS Children have worked in Somalia since 1985 when the first SOS Children’s Village was opened in Mogadishu. Over the past twenty six years, we have provided consistent care to children and families in the city, despite many other international aid organisations leaving due to the instability.
Read more about our work in Somalia