August 17 2011

Children and SOS staff flee fighting in Mogadishu

17/08/2011 - Yesterday, the children and staff from the SOS Children's Village in Mogadishu as well as the SOS Clinic had to be evacuated due to intense fighting between government troops, AU forces and al Shabaab groups.

Photo: SOS Archives
Women and children are waiting for treatment at the big SOS Clinic in Mogadishu - Photo: SOS Archives
Government forces neared the SOS Children's Village and the hospital in the Somali capital yesterday. As they tried to secure the area and put it under government control they encountered pockets of resistance and began to use heavy weaponry including mortar shells and anti-aircraft machinery. Neighbours of the village and hospital vacated the area as houses were being hit by shells.

SOS families brought to a safe place

Soon after, the SOS families and patients from the SOS Hospital also vacated the area. The 90 children are now safe in an area called Kilometre 13 in the Afgoye corridor. Toward the end of last year, SOS Children's Villages Somalia rented premises in this area as a precaution in order to be able to set up temporary shelters for situations just like this, which have occurred several times in the past years.

Patients evacuate the SOS Clinic

There are a few staff, some youths and security guards remaining in the SOS Children's Village who spent the night in a bunker. The hospital is still operational but with skeletal staff operating the unit and with just a very few patients too ill for transport. The area is calm this morning.

Ahmed Ibrahim, director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia, said such a situation was to be expected as in the past days government and AU troops moved closer and closer to the northern district of Mogadishu, one of the areas formerly controlled by al Shabaab. Although al Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu earlier this month, some resistance pockets remain in the Somali capital.

SOS Children's Villages Somalia has maintained a constant dialogue with government officials to ensure that nothing will happen to children, staff and the SOS facilities. However, fighting of the kind that broke out yesterday can get out of control. Ahmed Ibrahim reported some structural damages on roofs and office buildings, but no major destruction.

Emergency aid may be hindered

Most of the medical staff from the SOS Clinic in Mogadishu have gone to support the emergency relief work of SOS Children's Villages Somalia in the refugee camps in Badbado and Baidoa for drought-affected children and families. Ahmed Ibrahim said there might be some negative impact on the emergency relief work as "Mogadishu is one of the main areas where we wanted to concentrate on aid for starving children and families in urgent need of proper medical care." Ahmed does not see the whole emergency relief programme jeopardized but "the latest incidents in Mogadishu may complicate our efforts."