December 4 2007

Families move out of the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu

Urgent appeal by President Kutin

04/12/2007 - Following heavy bombardment of the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu in Somalia, in which one person was killed and four seriously injured, the families are being evacuated.

After a heavy bombardment by Ethiopian and Somali government forces in the area around the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu, in which the village was hit by two large land based missiles, the families are now leaving the children's village for the relative safety of other parts of Mogadishu. Five families have already been evacuated and, according to Ahmed Ibrahim, director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia, the remaining families should be out by this afternoon.

Yesterday's bombardment was the worst yet experienced by the children, mothers and co-workers of the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu. The missiles used were much larger than in the past and caused much more damage. Although all the children and youth fled to the reinforced bunker at the first sign of fighting, some of the mothers and aunts, concerned about everyday tasks, left the safety of the bunker to return to their houses. While the mother from house number eight was alone in her house it was hit by a missile and she was seriously injured. She has undergone surgery at the Red Cross Hospital but is still in intensive care. At the same time, an aunt was caught by a missile explosion while outside the bunker and was killed. Three other co-workers were seriously injured.

Ahmed Ibrahim says that the situation is now so bad that he cannot predict when, if ever, the families will return. He is also concerned for the safety of co-workers and is planning accordingly. The Hermann Gmeiner School, with over 500 students, and the SOS Kindergarten are currently closed for holidays and the SOS Hospital is functioning with a skeleton staff.

SOS Children's Villages President Helmut Kutin is greatly affected by the recent developments in Mogadishu: "Along with our grief after the death of the family assistant and our worries about those seriously injured, who have given the children their best in the most difficult circumstances; we feel great concerns about whether we can continue our projects in Mogadishu. For over twenty years we have been there in action. Especially now, in light of the circumstances of the population and the one million refugees present, it would be a great humanitarian loss if we would have to close our social facilities. For the future of the children of Mogadishu as well as for the medical care of thousands of people, it would mean a serious setback. We most strongly appeal to the conflict parties to end the force of arms and to ensure the protection of the civilian population and the safeguarding of the security of humanitarian services."


SOS Children's Villages has been active in Somalia since the middle of the 1980s. An SOS Children's Village, a kindergarten, youth facility and school for around 350 children are located in the south of Mogadishu. Despite heavy fighting and the complete chaos around the city following the outbreak of civil war in 1991, SOS Children's Villages continued its work at a time when almost all the other aid organisations had left the country.

The large aid and food programme that was launched at that time gradually became a permanent facility which includes a mother and child clinic, a paediatric unit and a food programme. Every year there are around 300,000 treatments. ECHO and the United Nations World Food Programme are supporting these projects.

SOS Children's Villages' facilities have been caught up in the conflict again and again over the past years. During the heavy fighting in Mogadishu in April this year, parts of the SOS Children's Village and a hospital ward full of wounded people were shelled.