Somalia: Violence forces MSF to close clinic in Mogadishu

By Daniel Wallis

NAIROBI, Aug 27 (Reuters) - Rising insecurity has forced Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) to close a clinic in Mogadishu providing essential health care to hundreds of children and pregnant women every day, the charity said on Wednesday.

The capital of Somalia is one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers to operate. More than 8,000 civilians have been killed in the Horn of Africa nation in fighting since the start of last year.

"The closure comes following a further deterioration of the situation in the area where the clinic is located," MSF said in a statement issued in neighbouring Kenya. It said the security risks to its patients and staff were now unacceptable.

"There has been a notable increase in violence, including mortars landing close to the clinic," it said.

In May and June of this year the centre had been treating an average of 300 out-patients and 35 in-patients each day. MSF continues to run two other clinics in Mogadishu, as well as several other projects in central and southern Somalia.

The violence pitting the country's interim government and its Ethiopian military allies against Islamist rebels has also uprooted 1 million people, triggering a humanitarian crisis that aid workers say is the worst in Africa.

An authoritative new report this week said the number of Somalis needing aid had leapt 77 percent since January to more than 3.2 million, or more than a third of the population.

The study by the Food Security Analysis Unit, set up the United Nations, said the situation had been worsened by failed rains, rising food prices, inflation and the worst insecurity in the country since the early 1990s.

Aid agencies say the violence, including abductions and attacks on their staff, has made it harder and harder to reach the rapidly growing numbers in need of help.

"Until now, the world's response to the catastrophe has been massively inadequate," Robert Maletta, policy advisor for Oxfam International, said in a separate statement on Wednesday.

"All parties to the conflict have a responsibility to ensure that the millions of Somalis in need of emergency aid have access to it," he said. "Those parties that block access and assistance delivery must be held accountable."

(Editing by Wangui Kanina and Robert Hart)


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