Somalia: SOS Hospital treating casualties of Mogadishu fighting

The SOS Hospital located opposite the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu is no longer a maternity and paediatric unit, at least for the time being, but is treating the many victims of the latest heavy fighting around the village. All beds are fully occupied and the hospital is crowded with the injured and the dead.

After a relatively quiet night, fighting flared up again at 10.00 on Tuesday morning around the SOS Children's Village Mogadishu and artillery and mortar shells continue to take their toll. The scenes at the SOS Hospital, which is now functioning as an emergency hospital for war victims, rather than for women and children as it was previously, would probably be familiar to the SOS staff who worked there in the early 1990s when the last president, Siyad Barre, was overthrown and civil war followed.

According to the regional director of SOS Children's Villages for East Africa, Wilhelm Huber who was then based in Mogadishu, the dead and wounded were piling up at the hospital and everyone was doing their best to help in any way possible. Today, he said, it is exactly the same situation. The wounded include not only fighters but also men who were just defending their property and were injured because of the constant shelling. Then, as now, he continued, we had no other alternative, than to open our medical facilities to the wounded.

However, since that time the hospital has treated the pregnant women and sick children of Somalia. Babies have been born there, sick children have been made well, many little ones have been vaccinated against common diseases and mothers and children have benefited from an emergency feeding programme run in cooperation with the EU. The surgical facilities have been used not only to deliver babies but also to rectify fistulas in young mothers, whose lives have been positively changed as a result of the surgery. It was truly a life saving place for many women and children (at no cost to them) who came from all over Somalia.

While the fierce fighting continues around the SOS Children's Village, the wounded will continue to come. Wilhelm Huber, like most, would like to see the hospital returned to the women and children and hopes that the day will come soon, although he fears that the biggest offensive is still to come.

Meanwhile, Huber advised that, "The SOS mothers and children are faring reasonably well, happy to have escaped the pounding sounds of artillery. Members of our leadership are communicating with our mothers on a daily basis and supplies for the families are being arranged."

"The entire SOS team," Huber concluded, "is to be commended for their dedication and untiring efforts and commitment during this crisis."

If history is anything to go by that commitment will be worthwhile and the SOS Hospital, for so long a refuge to the sick women and children of Somalia, will once again be theirs.