February 7 2007
Caught in the crossfire - the children of Mogadishu
07/02/2007 - On 28 December 2006 the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian troops took over the town of Mogadishu, while the Union of Islamic Courts and their militia left, leaving many dangerous weapons in the hands of the public. Since then the security situation in Mogadishu has deteriorated. Mothers, children and co-workers at the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu are understandably very nervous.
In Mogadishu, as always, it is civilians who are the victims of cross fire. According to Ahmed Ibrahim, director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia, "Seven people were killed, on 1 February, including three children, when a mortar hit a settlement for internally displaced people in Hodon District in Mogadishu. On 2 February another attack took place in Darmoley, just one km from the SOS Children's Village, where attackers fired mortar bombs at an Ethiopian camp and Ethiopians, in turn, fired heavy rockets back. Although SOS mothers, children and co-workers were frightened by the sounds of rockets and bullets passing over the village, no one was injured."
Ibrahim went on to say that in the last two days, there have been fears that fighting between the government forces and unknown attackers may spread to the pasta factory neighbouring the village, which houses forces opposing the Transitional Federal Government. This has caused tension in the village and has affected the movements of co-workers, students of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School and the SOS Nursing School, and patients who are in need of medical services at the SOS Hospital. "However" he continued, "elders and community leaders have been trying to convince both parties not to engage in any fighting in this heavily populated area".
SOS co-worker injured in crossfire
Apart from military clashes between these forces, Ibrahim says that disorder and anarchy have been reported in many parts of Mogadishu. This, he added, has affected the free movement of people in and out of their homes, "and political assassinations have been reported on daily basis". In addition, said Ibrahim, freelance militias have taken control of some areas in Mogadishu, setting up roadblocks in which they demand money from drivers. In one incident last Sunday (4 February), one of the SOS Kindergarten educators Mrs. Faduma Sheikh was caught in cross-fire and wounded in the shoulder, as she was going home from work. She was taken to the International Red Cross Hospital where she was treated and is now recovering.
The SOS Hospital assistant administrator, Abdimalik Mohammed, said that they are running the hospital with few drugs since the ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Office) flights to Mogadishu stopped due to disputes over landing fee payments, nearly three weeks ago. (ECHO transports the drugs in from Nairobi). Talks are underway to solve this problem. He says that doctors and nurses are doing their very best under the circumstances.
Hope for the future
Ibrahim concluded that "The children, mothers and other co-workers are scared and feel things might get worse in the future, if steps to foster peace and reconciliation are not taken by all the parties involved in Somalia’s politics". He continued: "Under international pressure to reach out to all parties in Somalia, including moderate Islamic groups, powerful clans, and members of civil society, the president agreed to call a broader reconciliation conference. In this regard there is hope that many Mogadishu residents will see the situation improve in the future".