October 12 2011

SOS Children's Villages pleas to move Mogadishu combat line from children's village

11/10/2011- The street that divides the SOS Children's Village and SOS Hospital compound in north Mogadishu has become the new combat line in a battle that has claimed the life on an SOS employee, damaged hospital facilities and has led to the evacuation of all staff.

Photo: Jens Honoré
Mother with starving child at the SOS Medical Centre in Badbado at the outskirts of Mogadishu - Photo: Jens Honoré
A three day battle has taken place within two adjoining SOS compounds, between Somali government forces who took up position in the children's village, and Al-Shabab who are fighting to retain control of the area around the adjacent SOS Hospital compound.

One SOS employee was killed by artillery fire early on Monday morning following two days of heavy shelling which destroyed parts of the hospital. Ali Shabye who was in his mid-50s was killed at the entrance to the laundry building, where he worked since 1994. On-going fighting continues to hamper efforts by SOS staff to recover his body.

The hospital's paediatric pharmacy has been destroyed in the fighting that forced patients and staff to flee the area on Sunday. According to the National Director of SOS Children's Villages in Somalia, Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim "the hospital cannot function at the moment, the zone has become a battlefield. It is not acceptable for anyone to disrupt the work of a hospital; it is a crime against humanity to do so. We continue to emphasise to the authorities the need to avoid collateral damage, as the hospital's infrastructure is very important to the people of the Somali capital".

He reiterated the plea made on Monday by Wilhelm Huber, the Regional Director of SOS Children's Villages in East Africa who asked all parties involved "to prevent the area surrounding SOS Children's Villages from becoming a battle zone'. Mr Wilhelm Huber stressed that the area around the hospital "must not become a no-man's land". In September alone the hospital provided services to approximately seven thousand patients, almost 40 per cent of whom were children under five. Unconfirmed reports on Tuesday suggest that Al-Shabab have vacated the hospital grounds.

Photo: Jens Honoré
The ruined city of Mogadishu - Photo: Jens Honoré
Residents of the SOS Children's Village were not affected by the fighting, and are reported to be safe and well in Kilo 13 – a village 13km away, to where they were evacuated in August.
Security staff and a gardener remained on the premises until forced to leave on Sunday evening. They, like their colleagues at the SOS Hospital were reluctant to leave their workplace and are eager to return as soon as the authorities permit them to do so.

This is the first time since it was established in 1985 that the SOS Children's Villages facilities have had to be totally abandoned by all SOS staff. There have been no reports to indicate that emergency relief operations at the Badbado IDP camp (IDP - internally displaced persons) have been affected.