October 13 2011

Concern as SOS facilities in Mogadishu remain a militarised zone

12/10/2011- The SOS Children's Villages staff today pleaded with troops to hand over the body of their colleague Ali Shabye, who continues to lie where he died on Monday morning when he was caught in the crossfire between Somali government troops and al-Shabab militants.

Somali government forces who are supported by African Union troops have occupied the SOS Children's Village since they forced all SOS staff to evacuate the compound four days ago. While the District Commissioner is reported to have claimed that al-Shabab is no longer in control of the area around the SOS Hospital grounds - across the street - military personnel have yet to permit SOS staff members collect the body of the deceased; to the distress of his family, friends and colleagues.

According to the Director of SOS Children's Villages in Somalia, Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, "this is a basic humanitarian right". In requesting the District Commissioner to intervene, Ahmed has stressed the need to allow Ali Shabye's family the chance to mourn their loss "with dignity". He commended his colleagues who "have offered to risk their own security in order to return the body for burial."

The need to reopen the SOS Hospital is also a matter of grave concern to staff who are worried about the wellbeing of their patients who are in need of urgent care. In September alone, the hospital administered medical services to almost 7,000 individuals, among them 40 maternity patients, some of whom had just given birth by caesarean section. The fate of the hospital's 2,600 paediatric patients under the age of five-years-old is unclear, as a coordinated evacuation plan was not possible over the weekend due to the abrupt nature of the evacuation order.

Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim has repeated his request to all troops on the ground to demilitarise the area to ensure the immediate resumption of services at the hospital and the adjoining children's village. In its 25 year history, the hospital has been evacuated on a few occasions as a result of insecurity. However, SOS security staff always remained on the premises to ensure services returned to normal within hours. There is therefore, "no justification for any military group to prevent staff from returning to their duties within hours".

It has been reported that the hospital's paediatric pharmacy was seriously damaged in the fighting that intensified as the weekend progressed. SOS staff have been restricted from entering the general area and are therefore unable to assess the extent of damage to other buildings and facilities.

The SOS Medical Centre in Badbado camp for internally displaced persons is unaffected by these events and SOS staff continue to provide health related services to over 4,000 individuals each month, among them 348 children under five who suffered Severe Acute Malnutrition on admission to the camp.