Large-scale emergency response
Since late March, the ICRC has stepped up its humanitarian operations in Somalia. Working closely with the Somali Red Crescent Society, it is concentrating primarily on treating people wounded in the fighting and on assisting families forced to flee their homes. The ICRC, which has been active in Somalia since 1977, is one of the few humanitarian organizations that has been able to function during the recent crisis.
Humanitarian organizations in Somalia face dangerous and uncertain working conditions. Their assistance is required in many different places at a distance from one another. "There are hundreds of small settlements. Large numbers of displaced families are scattered throughout central and southern Somalia, making the distribution of relief quite difficult. However, the provision of relief needs to be quick and efficient because people are exhausted and have been traumatized," said Mathias Frese, ICRC relief coordinator.
ICRC teams sent to regions where displaced families have taken refuge reported the almost complete absence of sheltering places and acute shortages of food, essential household items and, in some areas, of safe drinking water. "Some families left Mogadishu with absolutely nothing and are forced to huddle under trees with their children. They have no food, no shelter, nothing," reported Daniel Gagnon, an ICRC delegate.
The onset of the rainy season has made children, exhausted by their long journeys and living without proper shelter, extremely vulnerable to disease. "Some of them arrive at clinics, malnourished and suffering from watery diarrhoea," said Nasra Ismail, head of the Somali Red Crescent clinic in Dusamareb, where some of the displaced families from Mogadishu, 500 kilometres away, have taken refuge.
Together with its emergency work, the ICRC went on with its other activities, such as providing medical support to 23 Somali Red Crescent clinics in central and southern Somalia, building and repairing water-supply facilities, carrying out agricultural and livelihood projects and restoring family links through tracing services and Red Cross messages.
Treating the wounded
As families fled Mogadishu, the scene of heavy fighting, surgeons and hospital staff in the city worked round the clock. Although the situation in Mogadishu and the unavailability of means of transport made it difficult for the wounded to be brought to hospitals in the city, they continued to stream in.
Medina and Keysaney hospitals in Mogadishu increased their capacity from 65 to 200 beds by setting up tents in their grounds. They also hired additional staff. In response to urgent needs, the ICRC has airlifted large quantities of medical and surgical supplies to hospitals in Mogadishu.
Keysaney hospital, located in North Mogadishu, is run by the Somali Red Crescent and has been supported by the ICRC since 1991. Medina hospital is in South Mogadishu and functions with the help of the local community; it has been supported by the ICRC since 1999. The ICRC provides these two facilities with monthly consignments of surgical and other supplies, salaries for staff and maintenance support. It also trains the medical and technical staff and works to upgrade the hospitals' infrastructure.
Since 1 January, Medina and Keysaney hospitals treated 2,080 wounded persons. Medical facilities supported by the ICRC in central and southern Somalia, including Mogadishu, treated 3,150 wounded persons.
Other medical facilities in Mogadishu that admit and treat the wounded are assisted by the ICRC on an ad hoc basis.
Providing safe water
One of the ICRC's most pressing tasks was to provide safe drinking water for those exposed to the greatest risk. Medical facilities reported hundreds of cases of watery diarrhoea every week. The lack of safe drinking water in Middle and Lower Shabelle and in southern Galgadud, where a large number of displaced families had taken refuge, would have exacerbated a public health situation that was already precarious. Chlorinated drinking water was trucked in to 60,000 persons daily. In addition, large quantities of oral rehydration salts were distributed to the five rehydration centres in Mogadishu managed by the Somali Red Crescent and to medical facilities in central and southern Somalia.
ICRC assistance in figures, April and May 2007
201,000 persons received more than 7,000 tonnes of food.
As a first step, enough food to last for two months was given to families displaced from Mogadishu who had taken refuge in Galgadud, Mudug, Middle and Lower Shabelle and in the Danile district of Mogadishu. Each family received 144 kilogrammes of cereals, 48 kilogrammes of beans and 24 litres of vegetable oil.
Essential household items
Nearly 350,000 persons received essential household items.
The ICRC, together with volunteers from the Somali Red Crescent, distributed essential household items (plastic sheets, kitchen sets, jerrycans, mats, blankets and clothing) to displaced families in Mudug, Galgadud, Hiraan, Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Middle and Lower Shabelle, Lower Juba and in Danile.
30 tonnes of medical supplies, including kits to treat 500 hospitalized war-wounded patients, were airlifted to Mogadishu.
20,000 packets of oral rehydration salts were distributed in Mogadishu and in central and southern Somalia, to treat cases of acute watery diarrhoea. Since 15 April, more than 1,000 persons have been treated in Mogadishu alone.
Expatriate surgical teams performed 92 operations in Mogadishu and Baidoa.
Chlorinated drinking water was distributed to approximately 60,000 persons daily. Ten million litres of water have been delivered since 1 April.
For further information, please contact:
Pascal Hundt, ICRC Somalia, tel. +254 20 272 39 63
Nicole Engelbrecht, ICRC Nairobi, tel. +254 20 272 39 63 or +254 722 51 27 28
Claudia McGoldrick, ICRC Geneva, tel. +41 22 730 2063 or +41 79 217 32 16