Somalia: Government forces at the gate of SOS Children's Village Mogadishu

News and Press Release
Originally published
Missiles hit the SOS Hospital

In another day of fierce fighting in Mogadishu, four missiles hit the SOS Hospital. Government forces are reported to be at the gates of the SOS premises. Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children's Villages, has made an urgent appeal to the warring factions to resume peace talks, particularly on behalf of the children.

During another day of heavy fighting the SOS Hospital in Mogadishu was hit by four missiles, one of which destroyed a ward where wounded people were recuperating. During times of relative peace the hospital is a maternity and paediatric unit and the ward was one of five in the paediatric area.

According to Ahmed Ibrahim, the national director of SOS Children's Villages in Somalia, there were up to 20 people in the ward. It is not known how many died as a result of the missile strike. The missiles struck at around 10.00 on Wednesday morning, just as the fighting was resuming after a quiet night. It is presumed that the missiles came from government forces who are pursuing the Islamic fighters across Mogadishu, although there is no suggestion that the hospital was a deliberate target.

According to the latest information Somali government and Ethiopian allied forces are at the gates of the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu and the SOS Hospital which are opposite each other. The troops now hold the road but have not yet entered the village. "Those who can run have done so", said Ibrahim, "and others more seriously wounded have been evacuated from the hospital by their friends and relatives." Only a skeleton staff of volunteer doctors and medical personnel remain, carrying out surgery in what was, in better times, the maternity wing.

The SOS Children's Village meanwhile, has been hit several times by missiles, the last one on Wednesday, which, like some of the others, landed on the football pitch. The children and mothers and other co-workers have already been moved to a safe place and no-one in the village has been injured. The SOS Children's Village opened in Mogadishu in 1985 and the hospital, used for maternity, paediatric and other humanitarian services, has been open since 1989. Throughout the 1991 fighting and the civil war the hospital remained untouched by shelling. In 2003 a nursing school was opened at the hospital and the first batch of students has since graduated.

Wilhelm Huber, the regional director of SOS Children's Villages for East Africa, said that "Considering this latest information I believe we are in a relatively good position in that with the government forces holding the area the hospital will once again be used to treat the wounded. We are even now contacting the SOS medical personnel to ask them to return to reopen the hospital and begin work as soon as possible."

Helmut Kutin, President of SOS Children's Villages, has made an urgent appeal to the warring factions: "Somalia has not been stable since 1991. The fighting that has been seen recently is another tragedy that the people are experiencing, particularly in Mogadishu. SOS Children's Villages requests all those involved in the conflict to resume peace talks. It is not possible to provide support in the current conditions. The years of suffering that the people have experienced must come to an end. As a child aid organisation we are asking, particularly on behalf of the children, for a peaceful end to the conflict so that both they and their country have a future!"