Saturday, May 08, 2010

Somalia: Armed groups urged to vacate clinic

Dr. Hawa Abdi has turned her farm in Somalia into an IDP camp

UN - The top United Nations relief official in Somalia today called on armed groups occupying a medical clinic outside the capital, Mogadishu, to vacate the compound and allow unfettered access to the facility for those who need assistance.

“It’s one of the most basic tenets of the laws of war – not to cause unnecessary suffering by attacking clearly identified medical institutions or medical personnel who are providing relief to those who need it,” said Mark Bowden, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

“Those responsible for this should show genuine concern for their Somali fellow citizens, particularly the sick and vulnerable who are in need of care and treatment.”

Armed groups have been occupying the Hawa Abdi clinic, located in the 13-kilometre corridor between Mogadishu and the town of Afgooye, since last Friday and holding the clinic’s director hostage.

Patients had to be evacuated from the clinic, which has been treating displaced people and those in need since the early 1990s, according to a statement issued by Mr. Bowden’s office.

There are some 366,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in temporary settlement along the Afgooye corridor, the majority of whom fled the fighting in Mogadishu in 2007-2008.

The Horn of Africa nation continues to be plagued by fighting between Government forces and its supporters and Islamist rebels. It remains the scene of one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with 1.4 million IDPs, some 570,000 refugees and nearly 3 million people dependent on aid.

UN agencies have been providing assistance to Somalis in need, including distributing shelter supplies, clean water and latrines to those residing in the Afgooye corridor.

There are major health concerns in the area such as malnutrition and cholera, which makes the interruption of services at the main medical facility a serious development.

“The humanitarian community is extremely concerned about the impact of this action,” said Mr. Bowden. “Whatever the nature of this dispute, there is no excuse for the lack of command that has allowed the conflict to violate the sanctuary of a health clinic as a place of safety for those in need.”

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