After heavy fighting erupted on 20th October in Dayniile, on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was forced to suspend its measles vaccination campaign in the area.
The campaign had been scheduled to last three weeks and to reach 35,000 children. Measles is currently wreaking havoc in Somalia. Sixty thousand have been already vaccinated against measles over the last two months.
"Combined with malnutrition, measles is now the main killer of children in Somalia,” says Duncan McLean, head of MSF programmes in Somalia. “Only vaccination can stop the spread of the epidemic.”
During the first five days of the campaign, 4,831 children aged six months to 15 years were vaccinated in different parts of Dayniile. But clashes between the forces of the Transitional Federal Government, supported by AMISOM (the African Union Mission in Somalia), and Al Shabaab, put a stop to the vaccinations.
"As long as the security situation is not stabilised, it will not be possible to resume the vaccination campaign,” observes McLean.
“And when this happens, we will have to completely rethink our strategy because many people have fled the combat zones. Tens of thousands of displaced people were living in camps in Dayniile, many for a long time and some who had arrived recently from drought-affected regions.”
In addition, many people were wounded during the clashes. On 20th ctober and the day after, MSF teams at Dayniile Hospital received 83 patients who had been injured by gunshots or explosions. Forty one were hospitalised and eleven surgical procedures were performed.
MSF has supported management of emergencies for the hospital in Dayniile since August 2007.
Starting this past April, MSF has also supported the treatment of severe malnutrition. Twenty four malnourished children were receiving intensive treatment before the fighting erupted. In most cases, frightened mothers chose to leave with their children; only six currently remain under care.
MSF continues to work in the Dayniile hospital and in Mogadishu, where our teams provide medical and nutritional assistance to displaced populations.
MSF has been working in Somalia continuously since 1991 and currently operates 13 projects in the country, including medical activities related to the current emergency, vaccination and nutritional interventions.
MSF resumed operations in Dadaab, Kenya, in 2009, and it also assists Somali refugees in the camps of Dolo Ado, Ethiopia