Even in the worst times of civil war, when everyone left, including all diplomatic representatives, staff at the SOS facilities determinedly kept open. Since the early 1990s, when the country plunged into a state of chaos, the medical facilities in particular have provided a vital service for hundreds of thousands of people. Back then, projects were changed immediately, meaning that the school became an emergency clinic and the grounds of the SOS Children's Village became a sick bay. The mother and child clinic that was opened during the serious crisis is still the only one in the city where people receive treatment free of charge and where the staff have professional qualifications.
Mogadishu is synonymous for lawlessness, ruin and arbitrariness. It has two million inhabitants and an estimated one million weapons. In the absence of a central political authority, these weapons are the only way of exerting any power. Staff at SOS facilities have found themselves in increasingly dangerous situations in recent years. Local people openly protested against the violent attacks and called for SOS Children's Villages to be able to work unimpeded.
In September last year this lead to a targeted attack, in which Sister Leonella Sgorbati and her bodyguard were killed. Sister Leonella did volunteer work with other Consolata Missionary Sisters at the SOS Children's Village in Mogadishu for years. She set up a unique SOS nursing school in Somalia and was its director. Her death casts a shadow over the activities of SOS Children's Villages and recent political developments raise questions about the future of a country that has for years been seen as a hopeless case. "I cannot tell you anything about SOS Children's Villages' future here", said Claudio Croce, the programme director of SOS Children's Villages Somalia when he visited Austria in November 2006.
Until a few months ago, clans and warlords controlled districts and streets of houses, a conglomerate of unclear areas of power and political players. Summing up the anarchic events seen in the city in a few words, Claudio Croce says "Everyone does what they want". The UIC (Union of Islamic Courts) then came and brought supposed order to the structures of power. They were more reliable, but then they were not clear in their stance towards aid organisations such as SOS Children's Villages. Claudio Croce noted that the support shown by the people, which had always been a deciding factor in the activities of SOS Children's Villages, was no longer as strong. Even though the aid organisation was rooted in Somalia and its activities were based in the country, the UIC apparently continued to see SOS Children's Villages as a Western organisation. No clear explanation was given regarding their attitude towards SOS Children's Villages and in the meantime, the UIC was ousted by Ethiopian troops and soldiers of the interim government. The situation in Mogadishu has become even more serious over the past two weeks and the troops that are now stationed in the city are trying to bring the situation under control.
And SOS Children's Villages' facilities? They are still open, as in previous years. Additional security staff have been employed and are on call 24 hours a day. Employees at the clinic and students at the SOS nursing are also prepared, should the situation become worse. This means that the SOS mother and child clinic will continue to treat up to 250 children a day and up to 100 women. On average, 14 babies are born in the maternity room every day. Nine doctors work there and a total of around 300 people work in the SOS Children's Village facilities. Ahmed Ibrahim, who has been working for SOS Children's Villages in Somalia for 15 years, thinks that the SOS facilities have been able to continue their work as normal due to the great sympathy and support that the local people have shown recently, in this period of change.