April 3 2007
SOS Children's Villages in Mogadishu on alert
"Everyone would have left by now if it hadn't been for the children"
03/04/2007 - The harshest fighting seen in Somalia's capital in over 15 years is jeopardising SOS Children's Villages' activities on the ground. If the situation becomes worse, it is questionable whether the facilities can remain open.
SOS Children's Villages staff in Mogadishu are extremely worried about the recent developments around the capital of the war-torn country. Project director Ahmed Ibrahim reports on the heaviest fighting since 1991, and there has also been severe fighting in the district where SOS Children's Villages' facilities are located. "Thousands of people are leaving the city; it is estimated that more than 25,000 refugees are living without shelter. They have no access to medical care, no water, no food. A cholera epidemic is affecting many, especially in the small villages along the Shebelle," says Ahmed Ibrahim.
Ibrahim and Wilhelm Huber, Regional Director of SOS Children's Villages in East Africa, describe the atmosphere at SOS Children's Villages' facilities in Mogadishu as very tense. SOS Children's Villages has been active in Mogadishu since the 1980s; its work even continued during the worst periods of the civil war at the beginning of the 1990s. The emergency clinic, which is now a large established hospital serving mothers and children in particular and treating thousands of people every year, provides essential medical support in these exceptional circumstances. It looks as though the situation there is now equally out of control.
"Many stray bullets have hit our buildings. Fear and uncertainty prevail," says Ibrahim. The school and kindergarten at the SOS Children's Village were able to stay open until the last minute in spite of all the difficulties, and now the holidays have begun.
The situation in the hospital and the mother and child clinic is another matter: "Patients and staff are finding it extremely difficult to reach the facilities because of the fighting, which is why it is almost as if we have ‘scaled down’ our work. The mothers and children at the SOS Children's Village are exhausted and demoralised; it is looking as though everyone is gradually loosing hope. It is very hard for us to continue to work in such circumstances and to convey a sense of optimism. Happily, nothing has happened to anyone so far," said Ibrahim.
For years, there has been a contingency plan for SOS Children's Villages' facilities in Mogadishu. Regional Director Wilhelm Huber says that this plan would come into effect if the situation became volatile. The worst case scenario is that the facilities would have to be evacuated. "It is the children who give our staff courage. Without the children, they would have all left. I'm sure of that," says Huber. In spite of everything, he and everyone at SOS Children's Villages are hoping for a better future for the children in Somalia.