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Interview: Children in Mogadishu, Somalia Back from Exile

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Photo courtesy of Jens Honore.

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In August of 2011, the children and staff who called SOS Children’s Villages Mogadishu home were forced to flee as conflict tore the Somali capital apart. The SOS hospital, kindergarten, and Hermann Gmeiner Schools were similarly affected as the fighting intensified across the city. Now, more than a year later, Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim, Director of SOS Children’s Villages Somalia, has been able to allow the children and families to return to their homes.

According to those who left the capital Mogadishu was burning and fighting had broken out in districts across the city: the once peaceful village had turned into a war zone.

Fortunately the families were evacuated to a suburb of Mogadishu City, to Garasballey, 12 miles away from the city, where they would be safe from the fighting. But nothing can compare to the feeling of being at home, and the SOS families who lost theirs are glad to be moving back to the Mogadishu Village.

SOS: What do the Village and facilities look like? Are there major damages to infrastructure?

Ahmed Mohamed Ibrahim: After repairs and renovations, the facilities look good, much better than the day the families first returned. Village and other facilities were damaged as a result of the fierce fighting that took place in the area. Two family houses were destroyed by mortar shelling and other family houses, the youth home and administration block got all suffered similar damages. Ten out of the twelve family houses in the Village are being occupied by the families at the moment. There are plans to rebuild the destroyed houses once funds are available.

SOS: Has the SOS Hospital also opened its doors again? Have patients started to attend the clinic in the same number as before the evacuation?

AMI: The hospital's main warehouse was also destroyed by a mortar shell and it is totally unusable at the moment. The hospital was reopened in the beginning of October 2012 and all the staff members have resumed their normal duties. Since then there have been no problems and the government forces who manage roadblocks around the project were cooperative allowing an increased number of patients to gain access the hospital.

SOS: How has the situation changed in Mogadishu? What prompted you to allow the families to return to their homes?

AMI: It was in April 2012 when the army moved out of the project area and left fewer members of the government forces. We deployed our security guard and maintenance staff to the Village in order to ensure that looting did not take place and it was at that time that maintenance staff started the renovation of the facilities. It was only in the end of September 2012 when the security situation of the area improved significantly and incidences of armed clashes between the government forces and Al-Shabaab began to dwindle. After many requests from the community elders, government officials and extensive security assessment, we decided to reopen the hospital and the nursing school in the first week of October 2012. The whole month of November, we assessed the situation and our Mothers and family assistants have been preparing the family houses during daytime while they were also observing the security situation. Together with the Mothers and children, we decided to move back to the village in December so that the children could attend our school which also opened in December. Having closely assessed the situation since April last year, we are confident that our staff and families are safe in our facilities.

SOS: Is SOS Children’s Villages Somalia hopeful that no more forced evacuations will occur? Is there any guarantee by government representatives to protect the SOS Children's Villages facilities?

AMI: Being in an armed conflict and anarchy situation for more than twenty years, the majority of the Somali population including our SOS Families is hopeful that the situation will not deteriorate anymore. Hope and the desire for peace and stability is seen everywhere and every day. Government so far showed respect towards SOS Children's Villages and always promises that they will make sure to protect the beneficiaries, our employees and facilities. Since we moved back to our facilities, no troubling situations have arisen.

Make a donation to SOS Children’s Villages today to help rebuild Villages like the one in Mogadishu or sponsor a child in Mogadishu to give them a loving family for life.

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