Trapped Somali populations need immediate life-saving assistance

Somalia humanitarian emergency©Robert Hugues 

"The conflict has escalated, with violence against civilians perpetrated by all sides contributing to the current humanitarian disaster. MSF demands that the independence of humanitarian action towards the political and peace-keeping agenda is secured and that all belligerents guarantee safe and unhindered access to aid actors." - Dr. Christophe Fournier, MSF International Council President

Geneva/Nairobi - The people of Somalia are currently facing a massive humanitarian crisis with unmet critical needs.

In May alone, Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) teams working in the Mogadishu suburbs of Hawa Abdi and Afgooye treated more than 2,500 children suffering from acute malnutrition, with admissions to MSF nutritional programs doubling in April and again in May.

Malnutrition rates have exceeded emergency thresholds for a year. The number of new cases is drastically increasing while external assistance is dwindling in quality and quantity due to high insecurity and increased targeting of humanitarian workers. Somalis attempting to flee the violence have few options for escape, as the main border crossings are closed.

"Somalia is no longer on the verge of a catastrophe, the disaster is happening now," stated Bruno Jochum, MSF Director of Operations in Geneva. "Last week alone, over 500 severely malnourished children were admitted in our nutritional programs. One out of six of these children needed to be hospitalized due to medical complications.

"If this trend continues, malnutrition may soon affect more of the general population such as children over five years old and vulnerable adults. The situation is tragic and we are unable to provide the aid necessary to prevent further deterioration of the situation."

In the Afgooye-Mogadishu corridor, over 250,000 people are living in extremely crowded conditions and their numbers are steadily increasing as they flee violence in the capital.

Less than 10 liters of clean water are available per person per day, and most families are living in makeshift shelters that provide little protection. Prices of basic food, such as rice and corn, have tripled since the beginning of the year and many displaced people rely exclusively on external assistance.

Violence continues in and around Mogadishu, taking a heavy toll on civilians. The MSF surgical ward in Dayniile, on the periphery of Mogadishu, has treated over 2,100 people suffering from traumatic injuries since the beginning of 2008. More than half are women and children under 14 years of age. Of our patients, 56 percent are treated for wounds related to violence, such as gun shots and explosions.

This highly volatile security environment prevents any significant evolution in the level and quality of assistance. Humanitarian workers are regularly targeted and no organization, including MSF, can work on a regular basis with international staff.

"Twentyfour months after the political and military involvement of international community members in the name of restoring stability and fighting terrorism, the situation is catastrophic for the Somali population," said Dr. Christophe Fournier, MSF International Council President.

"The conflict has escalated, with violence against civilians perpetrated by all sides contributing to the current humanitarian disaster. MSF demands that the independence of humanitarian action towards the political and peace-keeping agenda is secured and that all belligerents guarantee safe and unhindered access to aid actors."