January 22 2013

Children in Mogadishu back from exile

22/01/2013 - In August 2011, all children, youth and staff had to leave the SOS Children's Village in Somalia's capital Mogadishu - for the fourth time in recent years. The war has once more spilled over to areas where SOS families live, to the operating rooms of the big hospital, and to the classrooms of the two schools. A safe return was not possible until December 2012. Read an interview with Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, director of SOS Children's Villages in Somalia, on the present situation.

Photo: Jens Honoré
Ahmed Mohamed, director of SOS Children's Villages in Somalia © Jens Honoré
What do the family houses and the other facilities look like?

Ahmed Mohamed: After repairs and renovations, the facilities look good and much better than on that day when we first were able to access them again after more than a year. Yes, the village and other facilities were damaged as a result of the fierce fighting that took place in the area. Two family houses were seriously destroyed by a mortar shell while other family houses, the youth home and administration block got damages which our maintenance team was able to repair. Ten family houses out of the twelve family houses in the village are being occupied by the families at the moment. There are plans to rebuild the destroyed houses once funds are available.

Has the SOS Hospital also opened its doors again with all the staff?

Photo: Nyokabi Kanyagia
Thousands of children are given birth at the SOS Clinic in Mogadishu every year © Nyokabi Kanyagia
Ahmed Mohamed:
The hospital's main warehouse was also destroyed by a mortar shell and it is totally unusable at the moment. The hospital was reopened in the beginning of October last year and all the staff members reported to their duties. Since then there were no problems and the government forces who manage roadblocks around the project were collaborative and an increasing number of patients are able to access the hospital.

How has the situation changed that the management is now certain about the safety of children, youths and staff?

Ahmed Mohamed: It was in April 2012 when the army moved out of the project area and left fewer members of the government forces. We deployed our security guard and maintenance staff to the compound in order to ensure that looting does not take place and maintenance staff started the renovation of the facilities. It was only in the end of September 2012 when the security situation of the area improved and incidences of armed clashes between the government forces and Al-Shabaab almost ended. After many requests from the community elders, government officials and extensive security assessment, we took the decision to reopen the hospital and the nursing school in the first week of October.
Photo: SOS Archives
The children have reoccupied their playground © SOS Archives
The whole month of November, we have been assessing the situation and our mothers and family assistants have been preparing the family houses during daytime while they were also observing the security situation. Together with the mothers and youths, we decided to move back to the village in December so that the children could attend our school which also moved back in December. Having closely assessed the situation since April last year, we are confident that our staff and families are safe in our facilities.

Does the team of SOS Children's Villages Somalia see reasons for hope that the situation will remain like that for a longer period of time?

Ahmed Mohamed: Being in an armed conflict and anarchy situation for more than twenty years, the majority of the Somali population including our SOS families looks forward that the situation will not deteriorate anymore. Hope and the desire for peace and stability is seen everywhere and every day. Government so far showed respect towards SOS Children's Villages and always promises that they will make sure to protect the beneficiaries, our employees and facilities. Since we moved back to our facilities, no incidence has been reported.