SOMALIA: Struggling to help displaced Mogadishu residents

Sunday, April 29, 2007
Hawo Abdi's gynaeocological practice all but collapsed when her 26-hectare compound recently turned into a camp for displaced residents of the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

"There are about 12,000 people sheltering in the compound," Abdi said on Wednesday. "The buildings in the compound are now so full that the IDPs [internally displaced persons] are sheltering under the tress. We don't have enough built-up space."

Abdi opened her practice, 20km south of Mogadishu, in the 1980s with inpatient and outpatient facilities. In the early years, she charged fees for her services, but over time she decided to offer more free care.

"No one who comes to compound gets turned away," a volunteer doctor at the compound said. "[Unfortunately] most of the current patients cannot even afford to pay for the water they drink."

Then fighting started in February between Ethiopian-backed Somali government troops and insurgents. At least 320,000 people are estimated to have fled the city.

"My compound now doubles as a hospital and home to hundreds of internally displaced families," Abdi told IRIN. "It is so crowded that there is not a tree left for people to claim. Some displaced families have set up camp just outside the compound."

Most of the displaced people, according to Abdi, are women and children who arrived at her compound tired and weak from walking 20km with their belongings on their backs. Some of them suffer from diarrhoea, and many of the women had miscarried due to the stress and difficult conditions. "Today [Wednesday] I have 40 children suffering from acute watery diarrhoea," she said.

Some of her supplies had been donated by aid agencies and Somalis in the diaspora, but Abdi said these were quickly running out. "The IDPs' priority needs are food, shelter and medicine," she said. "The compound has a borehole but there is no water pump and fuel is in short supply. We need help if we are going to help people."

According to Abdi, the situation in Mogadishu is getting out of control. "If it does not improve soon, it will be worse than in 1992," she said. That year the civil war intensified and hundreds of thousands of Somalis died of hunger and disease.
Source: IRIN