Today from Hiiraan Online:  _
Somali children leave feeding centers for fear of fighting in Kismayo: MSF

Saturday, September 29, 2012

NAIROBI, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- The international humanitarian medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said on Saturday Somali children have left its feeding centers in Kismayo as parents fear the impact of fighting over the Indian Ocean port city.

In a statement issued in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, MSF said the last children under treatment for severe malnutrition left the MSF feeding center in the southern Somali city of Kismayo due to airstrikes by the AMISOM (African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia) forces to take the city from Al-Qaida allied group, Al- Shabaab.

"Kismayo has very limited health services for its population and we fear a spread of violence could reduce these depleted services further," David Querol, head of the MSF mission based in Nairobi, said in the statement.

"For example we are no longer able to refer patients to the nearby MSF hospital in Marere," he added.

The Kenyan troops, part of the AMISOM and Somalia National Army (SNA), on Friday stormed into Kismayo, the only remaining bastion of the insurgents blamed for terror on the Kenyan soil, including bomb and grenade attacks and abductions of foreigners.

MSF said its medical staff discharged eight of the remaining nine children on Friday at the request of their parents and provided supplies and instructions to try and help parents continue treatment at home.

The medical charity said their parents were hoping to continue caring for one small boy considered too weak to be discharged, but staff reported that the child too fled with his parents.

"Since then MSF team has also responded to outbreaks of measles and of watery diarrhea - clear indications of the level of the vulnerability of the population and the health care needs," Querol.

MSF said it opened the in-patient feeding center for children too sick to be treated in an out-patient program during the 2011 nutritional crisis in response to high rates of malnutrition.

Over the recent weeks, it said the threat of armed conflict has significantly disrupted the limited healthcare activities, referral systems and access to health facilities in and around Kismayo.

"In the feeding center where the international medical organization has been treating severely malnourished children since a nutritional crisis hit most of South Central Somalia in 2011, fear of the onset of fighting saw patient numbers drop dramatically, as staff negotiated discharge with parents wanting to flee or rejoin families," MSF said.

The medical organization called on the belligerent parties to respect the already fragile health structures in and around Kismayo and ensure that the staff of these facilities can deliver the much needed assistance to the population.

MSF also reminded all parties of their obligation to allow access to health care for all requiring emergency medical care.

MSF said its activities in the city are based only on the medical needs of patients, adding that the organization works to ensure assistance is delivered independently and neutrally from warring factions and parties without consideration of ethnicity, religion, clan or political affiliation.

Kismayo, with a population of 200,000, is one of the biggest city in Somalia. It is considered the hub of Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network Al-Qaida, after several years of pledging loyalty and ideological similarities.

Kismayo supplies the insurgents with steady income in the form of taxes and is a strategic city for Al-Shabaab fighters.

MSF said the interruption of activities also leaves more than 650 children in the ambulatory nutritional program in a very uncertain situation.

"In spite of the efforts done to provide them in the last week with a stock of supplementary therapeutic food, MSF remains concerned about their fate at this time," it said.

MSF has been working in Somalia since 1991. Over the past year, it has run up to 22 projects in different parts of the country and in refugee camps for Somalis in Ethiopia and Kenya.

Throughout 2011, MSF treated more than 78,500 patients for severe malnutrition and at least 30,000 for moderate malnutrition, 7,200 or so for measles and vaccinated 255,000 persons against the disease.


Click here