Violence continues unabated in Somalia

Pep Bonet Click for large view Somalia - a state with no government for 14 years - has no functioning health system and some of the worst health indicators in the world. Over one in ten children die at birth and of those that survive, a quarter will perish before their fifth birthday.

Nairobi - With over 500 cases of violent trauma injuries treated in its two hospitals in the town of Galkayo in central Somalia in this year alone, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) sounds the alarm about the continuing violence in the country. The suffering of the Somali people has received little attention from aid organizations and the international community.

In Mudug region, home to an estimated 350,000 people, MSF is forced to operate separate hospitals in the north and the south of the principal city of Galkayo because patients cannot cross the frontline that splits the town in two.

In the first six months of 2005, in the north, MSF doctors treated 397 patients for injuries related to violence. Of these, 224 were due to gunshots, while 135 were knife-related and a further 38 came from physical assault. In the southern hospital, in the first three months of 2005 alone, 106 patients were treated for gunshot wounds. Many of the victims are women and children.

"The frightening fact is that Somalia is officially not even at war," explains MSF head of mission Colin Mcllreavy. "This level of violence is simply a reflection of the brutality of everyday life for the people living in this country. Extreme violence has become a part of daily existence and the effect on the population is catastrophic."

Somalia - a state with no government for 14 years - has no functioning health system and some of the worst health indicators in the world. Over one in ten children die at birth and of those that survive, a quarter will perish before their fifth birthday.

MSF is regularly forced to temporarily suspend its medical activities due to the violence, or the threat of violence against staff and patients. "Violence seriously limits the work of MSF and that of other organisations," explains Mcllreavy. "We know for a fact that the already huge number of violence-related injuries we treat are just the tip of the iceberg. Violence severely limits people‘s access to our medical facilities."

MSF is also providing medical aid in Somalia's capital Mogadishu and in the regions of Bakool, Lower Juba and western Bay.