October 24 2011

More challenges for Somalia as rain brings mixed fortune

21/10/2011- Seasonal rains are adding to the woes of thousands of women and children in Mogadishu who are suffering as the only non-fee paying hospital in the country remains closed for security reasons. Rain also signals hope, which is nurtured by encouraging ideas from the SOS Children's Villages team.

Of the 500 patients who would normally attend the SOS Hospital in the Somali capital every day, “only the lucky” have managed to overcome strict movement restrictions that prevent them from finding alternative healthcare in Mogadishu. The facility remains closed due to a stand-off between various military groups, who prevent access to the area. According to SOS Hospital medical personnel who prefer to remain anonymous, “few of the 348 severely malnourished children under-five who were in the care of the hospital’s therapeutic feeding unit managed to make their way” to the SOS Emergency Medical Centre at Badbado 10km away, “the majority did not, as a result, they can be presumed dead”.

In igloo shaped huts made of sticks and covered by a tapestry of plastic bags, Mogadishu’s poorest residents today take shelter from the rain. Such conditions inevitably claim the lives of the most vulnerable who succumb to the cold conditions, while others, lack the strength to survive disease, that thrive in such muddy unhygienic environments.

As negotiations regarding the opening of the SOS Hospital continue, the facility and the adjacent SOS Children’s Village remain out of bounds for all except a few medical staff have been permitted to briefly access the hospital; however, security remains too precarious for a resumption of normal services. SOS personnel are doing everything possible to address the dire health needs within their community. Positive dialogue with various authorities has resulted in a relaxing of movement restrictions. The good news is that the most vulnerable women and children are now encouraged to cross the city and attend the SOS Medical Centre at the Badbado Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp.

With the rain comes greater risk of cholera and malaria, but it also brings hope for over 5,000 displaced Somalis who have received treatment in recent months at the SOS Clinic in the Badbado camp. With improved health, they are confident and eager to take on the work of planting the crops that will feed them in the coming year. In anticipation of their needs, the SOS team is providing encouragement through various initiatives to help families return home, to a life they long for. A distribution of food is underway to provide 500 families (3,000 individuals) with the means to sustain themselves for the coming month. To avoid delays and security issues, they are being issued with food vouchers, to be used in specific stores. Needs are also being assessed to ensure that people receive every practical assistance in terms of health and nutrition provisions in addition to other specific requirements, that enable as many as possible to return to a life of self-support.

Elsewhere in central Somalia similar measures are being undertaken by SOS staff. On 20 September, a committee of the Al-Shabab group instructed all of the 12,000 displaced families at the Baidoa IDP camp to return home. Prior to their departure SOS personnel provided 6,000 of the most needy people with one month’s food ration. Most importantly, SOS Children's Villages has kept contact where possible and currently endeavours to assist 11,000 of them.

In spite of the logistical challenges involved, SOS Children’s Villages teams are hopeful that most can soon be provided with food provisions to replenish their dwindling supplies. As a result of negotiations with community leaders, 3,000 of the most vulnerable have been resettled in a village called Bullo-Fuur, 80 km southwest of Baidoa. An SOS Emergency Medical Centre has been established there and lifesaving food and health services are now being provided.

Monthly food distribution continues unabated in other areas in the district where the needs of 2,000 families are being addressed. Plans are also being drawn up to facilitate the wishes of the many who are determined to take advantage of the current planting season, now that the rain-filled clouds give reason for optimism.