Somalia: Mogadishu hospitals suffer dangerous lack of resources

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Oxfam's Hassan Noor recently visited Banaadir and Medina Hospitals in Mogadishu.

Medina and Banaadir are two of the biggest hospitals in Mogadishu, and every day all of the city's problems come through their doors - young men with gunshot wounds, malnourished children, old women with malaria, cholera and other diseases which, at hospitals in most capital cities in the world, should be easily prevented and treated.

The doctors and nurses here work day and night, but they can only do so much with the resources they have. Banaadir is a specialist children's hospital, and when I first visited I was shocked - I had never seen a hospital like it. There were few beds - most patients lay on the floor, getting sicker and sicker, or under a few trees outside. The windows and doors were falling apart. The floors were filthy, because there was no water to clean with. Mosquitoes were everywhere, and if patients didn't have malaria when they arrived, there was a chance they would get it while being treated.

In one room, I watched as life slowly slipped out of Ahmed, a young boy, starving to death. The nurses were trying to feed him on a table - there was no bed available - but he was too weak. His mother and father watched helplessly as only a few tiny croaks came from his mouth. They knew he would not survive, but they refused to give up. I wondered how, in a big city like this, a young boy could starve to death.

But Mogadishu is not like most other cities. In a room in Medina hospital lay the dead body of a middle-aged man, so horrifically disfigured that his grieving family could not even confirm whether it was their father and husband. The man had left his home early that morning to go to work - just as millions of fathers do every morning all over the world. But as he walked down the street, he was hit by a rocket mortar. His head exploded and he died instantly. There was nothing the doctors at Medina could do.

This kind of indiscriminate shelling has had a devastating effect on the city. In the past month, about 20,000 people have fled Mogadishu - earlier this year, thousands were fleeing every day. But many still remain - and as the fighting and desperate poverty continues, hospitals like Medina are more important than ever.

The lack of proper equipment and the incredible pressure on doctors all over Mogadishu can have devastating consequences.

Iqro Asdi Adah, a seven-year-old girl at Banaadir, was severely wounded by stray bullets as she and her family tried to flee the city. As they scrambled her to a makeshift roadside clinic, doctors tried to save her, but in the process accidentally gave her the wrong blood transfusion. She is now staying at Medina, where she lives in constant agony, her face and skin disfigured and scarred, and the nurses try their best to ease her pain as her mother begs for anyone to help.

A few months ago, Oxfam and our local partners, along with a couple of other organisations, began work at these hospitals. We delivered some basic but life-saving medicines, and some mosquito nets to help protect sick patients from malaria. Since then, we have built a new water tank in Medina to ensure the hospital has a flowing supply of clean water, and helped renovate some of the wards in Banaadir hospital - fixing windows and latrines. We are about to provide 400 beds to Banaadir for children there - this will be the biggest such delivery the hospital has received since the start of the civil war.

It's a small step, to help the dedicated hospital staff and their vulnerable patients. But with violence in Mogadishu continuing and the hospital wards busier than ever, this aid is helping to save lives.