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Africa
Fighting and cholera plague Somali hospitals
Hospitals in Mogadishu struggle to keep patients safe amid gunbattles, funding gaps and cholera outbreak.
Last Modified: 17 Aug 2011 17:42

The UN has warned that a cholera outbreak threatens Somali children already weak from starvation [Reuters]

Somali government troops and African Union peacekeepers have advanced on rebels in northern Mogadishu, prompting one hospital caught in the crossfire to be evacuated.

Doctors and patients fled an SOS hospital on Tuesday after stray bullets from a fire fight between members of the armed group al-Shabab and Somali authorities broke out.

Ahmed Ibrahim, Somalia director for the SOS Children charity, told Reuters news agency: "We have been getting stray bullets in the hospital. We evacuated children ... Patients started running away and some of the staff fled from the hospital."

A nurse at the SOS hospital described the chaotic scene.

"Today, anti-aircraft gun shots deafened us - then a stray bullet hit the veil of a patient's relative," said nurse Dahir Abdulle. "I took cover inside the dispensary. After [some] minutes, I came out but could not see a single patient."

"Relatives rushed patients who still had IV drips attached to them," he added.

Al-Shabab claimed to have withdrawn from Mogadishu weeks ago, but pockets of the group remained.

Instability in Somalia's capital has complicated the work of relief organisations aiming to provide food, shelter and safety to tens of thousands of famine-stricken refugees.

Cholera outbreak

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned that a cholera outbreak linked to dirty water threatens Somali children already weak and on the brink of starvation.

At Banadir hospital in Mogadishu, medical staff are struggling to cope with the influx of patients, the  Associated Press reported.

Dr Abdalla Abukar said the cholera outbreak began last month, and the hospital admits between 50 and 80 people with the disease per day.

One hospital in Mogadishu has had 181 patients die from the disease since January. Half of those were children younger than two-years old. 

Calls for more aid

In addition to Somalia's ongoing civil war, the country has been hit by its worst drought in 60 years. More than 3.2mn people – half the population – are in need of food aid.

Getting aid to the country has been difficult because al-Shabab fighters control much of the country's most desperate areas.

"Despite increased attention in recent weeks, current humanitarian response remains inadequate, due in part to ongoing access restrictions and difficulties in scaling up emergency assistance programmes, as well as funding gaps," according to the UN's Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit.

Those funding gaps have been the subject of scrutiny and criticism. Some governments have called on their counterparts to increase aid contributions.

On Wednesday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) that the famine in Somalia was "a litmus test" not only for Muslims but for the whole of humanity.

"If you ride in a luxury car, you should be generous enough to help people who are struggling with hunger," he said.

"I hope the efforts [of the OIC] will mobilise the sleeping consciences. We hope the Western world, which likes to boast about its per capita income, shows its support for Somalia."

Source:
Agencies
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