Access to medical care dangerously scarce in and around Mogadishu, Somalia; needs increasing amidst violence

    Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders urges all parties to
    allow medical staff to work unhindered and to grant patients unimpeded
    access to care

    NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug. 20 /CNW/ - Access to medical care and assistance for
civilians and displaced persons in and around the Somali capital of Mogadishu
has decreased alarmingly in the past months, according to the international
medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). MSF is
urgently calling upon all parties to the conflict to respect the need for
medical staff to work unimpeded and for residents and displaced people in and
around Mogadishu to have safe access to medical care.
    MSF medical teams have found a severe decrease in the level of medical
care available in Mogadishu over the past six months. According to estimates
gathered by MSF international staff, as of today, less than 250 out of the 800
hospital beds available in Mogadishu in January are still in service. Since
then, three quarters of the staff in several of these hospitals have also
    "With bombings and shootings nearly daily occurrences in Mogadishu,
people in need of medical care are terrified to leave their homes, medical
personnel are fleeing the city, and hospitals are closed or barely
functioning," said Dr. Christophe Fournier, MSF International Council
President, who has just returned from Mogadishu. "People are not being treated
for basic ailments, let alone emergency needs.
    The lack of respect for allowing doctors to work and for the sick and
wounded to receive treatment is shocking and absolutely unacceptable." MSF has
treated nearly 60,000 people in its out-patient facilities in and around the
city since January, but insecurity has prevented the organization from opening
desperately needed medical services for more severe and surgical cases. MSF is
angered and deeply unsatisfied with the level and quality of care it is
currently able to provide for civilians in Mogadishu and for displaced people
around the city.
    "We should be able to open emergency and surgical services in Mogadishu,
send out ambulances to reach the sick and wounded, and bring them back for
treatment," said Dr. Fournier. "But, after months of trying, we still can't
even move about the city freely to assess the needs and provide the quantity
and quality of care that we know is needed. We want to do more, as do the
Somali doctors remaining in the city, but we are increasingly frustrated and
outraged that not enough is being done by all parties to ensure safe access to
medical care in Mogadishu."
    Violence in Mogadishu has also caused hundreds of thousands of people to
flee the city since January. Since the beginning of the exodus, a total of
20,800 families (approximately 120,000 people) arrived in the Afgooye region
west of Mogadishu, including approximately 5000 new families (approximately
30,000 people) in July alone. Many are living in miserable conditions with
little assistance, inadequate water and shelter, and no stable source of food.
In Hawa Abdi, 17 kilometres west of Mogadishu, a rapid health assessment
carried out by MSF in June of 641 children living with their displaced
families indicated a global malnutrition rate of 21.5 percent among children
under the age of five and a severe acute malnutrition rate of 3 percent - a
nutritional emergency, according to World Health Organization standards. More
than 60 percent of these families had no source of income, while 93 percent
said they had either already run out of food or had little left. In July,
nearly 38 percent of the 1424 children under five who visited our clinics for
the displaced in Afgooye and Hawa Abdi presented signs of acute malnutrition
and nearly 12 percent were severely malnourished and at immediate risk of
    "The increasing rates of malnutrition and a clear deteriorating trend in
the nutritional status that we are finding in children among families who have
fled Mogadishu is of extreme concern," said Dr. Fournier. "This is a warning
sign that without a dramatic increase in humanitarian assistance and access to
medical care for residents of Mogadishu and the displaced in the surrounding
regions, the health situation will further deteriorate. Immediate action must
be taken to assure that children, the sick, and the wounded do not suffer or
die needlessly because they cannot receive medical care."

    MSF has been present in Mogadishu since 1994 and is now working in three
locations in the Somali capital, providing different medical services. Since
April 2007, MSF has been providing primary health care, water, and non-food
items to displaced persons from Mogadishu in the Afgooye and Hawa Abdi region.
MSF has worked continuously in southern and central Somalia for more than 16
years and is currently providing medical care in ten regions.

    PHOTOS MSF's photo database includes 17 recent images from freelance
    photographer Jehad Nga. Please contact us for details.

For further information:

For further information: Naomi Sutorius, MSF Press Officer in Toronto,
(416) 642-3463, 1-800-982-7903 Ext. 3463,; Gregory
Vandendaelen, MSF Press Officer in Montreal, (514) 845-5621 ext.633,; Eva Kongs, MSF Press Officer in Nairobi, 254 (0)
722-513-981, 254-20-4444-474,

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