Somalia : Medical aid to civilians worn down by war

Little mention was made of the country's real problems: a long-running civil war, an inexistent or poorly functioning health system, treatable diseases that kill thousands and, for women, a very high chance of dying in pregnancy or childbirth. While providing medical aid in various parts of the country, MSF is urging international actors to take notice of the desperate situation in which many Somalis live. MSF restarted its programs in the capital Mogadishu in May 2002, over a year after seizure of several staff members (later released) forced suspension of the projects there. At mid-year, fighting was continuing in and around the city. MSF offers consultations in outpatient clinics and mother and child health care programs. A cholera treatment camp has also been set up to cope with periodic outbreaks. Fighting in southern Somalia in May 2002 forced 10,000 Somalis to seek refuge in neighboring Kenya, and MSF teams there were able to assist them. MSF voiced concern about pressure being exerted by Kenyan authorities on refugees to return to Somalia despite the continued fighting. In Hudur, the capital of the Bakool region, MSF runs a tuberculosis ward and therapeutic feeding center, as well as primary care and kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) projects. In summer 2002, a health post opened in the Rabdhure district, also in Bakool. Coordination of a separate kala azar project in the south was handed over to Health Net International in April 2002. In Middle Shabelle, in Giowhar and Aden Yabal, MSF responds to disease outbreaks and provides health care via health centers, a network of mother and child health care programs and vaccination campaigns. MSF also supports a 60-bed hospital in the city of Galkaayo and three health centers in rural areas, and cares for wounded civilians when fighting breaks out. In January 2002, after a meningitis outbreak, MSF sent a team to Hargeisa in Somaliland for a vaccination campaign, reaching 190,000 people. In Bossasso, in Puntland, MSF established a cholera treatment camp in April 2002 when an epidemic hit the city, and treated 1,100 patients in seven weeks. Fighting in the area in May caused international volunteers to evacuate for a week. MSF has been active in Somalia since 1991. International staff: 19 National staff: 298