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Continuing violence in Somalia

For 16 years, Somalia has been ravaged by conflict, drought and floods. Lawlessness reigns in the centre and south of this country of 9 million people, while Puntland and Somaliland, in the north of Somalia, have managed to steer clear of the conflict.

Today, Somalia is at a significant crossroads. In December, the Supreme Islamic Courts Council, which six months earlier had seized control of the capital and the south of the country, was ousted and its leaders forced to flee. After a lightning war, the transitional federal government — backed by the Ethiopian army — was installed in Mogadishu, while the US carried out air strikes on positions suspected of harbouring Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda. Since then, fighting in Mogadishu has resumed and intensified between the transitional government and various insurgent groups and warlords. Meanwhile, the first peace-keeping troops dispatched by the African Union were striving to establish positions in the volatile capital. Most of the civilians who are able to leave were trying to flee Mogadishu. In mid April, more than 100,000 inhabitants had managed to find refuge outside the city.

The ICRC is focusing its efforts on the care of the hundreds of the wounded — mostly civilians — who are being treated in Madina, Keysaney and other hospitals. Other casualties remain stranded with no access to medical treatment. Outside the capital, the ICRC, in collaboration with the Somali Red Crescent Society, is assisting people affected by the conflict and is supporting victims of the drought and recent floods. The ICRC is also trying to gain access to people arrested or detained in relation to the conflict. There are currently more than 600,000 Somalis displaced by years of conflict and by reoccurring natural disasters such as the severe flooding that struck the south of the country in November. Emergency assistance takes the form of shelter, drinking water, food and health care, as well as the restoration of links between dispersed family members. As a complement to its ongoing emergency activities, the ICRC is engaged in some 300 health programmes and agricultural projects, notably the distribution of seeds to help victims recover their self-sufficiency.

In spite of this dire situation, it is vital that the ICRC maintains the trust of all the parties and preserves its neutral and independent humanitarian action. It does so by relying on its extensive local knowledge of the complex Somali context and working closely with the different clans and in tandem with its highly effective partner, the Somali Red Crescent Society, the only national entity still functioning in this devastated country.

Jean-François Berger
ICRC editor Red Cross Red Crescent

Fighting in Mogadishu since December 2006 has forced many people from their homes and into makeshift camps.

Keysaney hospital, Mogadishu, emergency room entrance. This 65-bed hospital, formerly a jail, was opened by the ICRC in 1992. It is run by the Somali Red Crescent with a staff of five surgeons and 19 nurses, who have treated some 58,000 people.

A boy carries a piece of artillery shell which hit his house in Mogadishu, 20 February 2007.

Displaced people and local herders receiving food following a severe drought in the Bakool region of southern Somalia.

Red Cross messages are often the only link between family members during times of insecurity.

Mogadishu bears the scars of countless armed clashes since 1991, the year this tank was destroyed.

Access to the affected population by Somali Red Crescent and ICRC staff is hard and slow, since roads and bridges were washed away by floods in November 2006.

Madina hospital, Mogadishu, 6 December 2006. Funded by the ICRC, this 67-bed hospital treats mostly casualties of conflict.


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