Somalia - Situation worsens in Afgooye following the arrival of newly displaced families from Mogadishu

Geneva - Four months into the present crisis triggered by a major wave of violence in the country's capital city, most of the 400,000 displaced people (398,000 according to the UN) have been unable to return to their homes and remain highly dependent on the assistance provided by the few aid actors present.

A large majority of the displaced families took refuge in Afgooye and Hawa Abdi, some 30 km west of Mogadishu, under very precarious conditions, surviving under trees and in abandoned public buildings. Local groups of residents have been trying their best to help families in need and provide them with basic accommodation. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up emergency medical and relief assistance to respond to the acute needs of populations.

"There are no general food distributions done in regular bases in the area, only very few actors are present to provide aid to the displaced families" said Feisal Abdulkadir, Senior Field Coordinator for the MSF based in Afgooye. "High market prices and no stable source of income for the displaced families constitute an additional hurdle that increases their vulnerability."

In June 2007, MSF conducted a rapid health assessment in the area where displaced have gathered. A total of 393 households were assessed, 641 children were measured with MUAC (Middle Upper Arm Circumference) bracelet and the preliminary results indicate a global malnutrition rate of 21.5 percent and a severe acute malnutrition rate of three percent. This situation could be described as a nutritional emergency according to WHO classification.

Amongst the families interviewed, "Six percent reported not having been able to eat the day before" said Dr Monica Rull, who conducted the survey in the field. "More than 60 percent of the families have no income source and 93 percent of them have already run out of food or will soon find themselves without food reserves".

During the last two months, international media attention has seldom focused on the events taking place in Somalia's capital and its surroundings, where tens of thousands of people have been desperately waiting for assistance from the international community.

MSF is calling for an immediate mobilization of aid actors in order to respond to the rapid deterioration of the situation and prevent a major humanitarian disaster.

Since April 2007, MSF has been providing primary health care to a vulnerable population of approximately 12,000 families who have settled in Afgooye town and supports the in-patient department (IPD) in Afgooye hospital. MSF is also supporting the displaced in Hawa Abdi through donations of medicines to local health structures, implementation of a CTC (Cholera treatment centre), water supply, and non-food items distribution to the new arrivals. MSF has been working in Somalia since 1991.