Somalia Update: Cautious return to normality
April saw some of the fiercest fighting for months in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, but the end of the month saw a number of changes, not least the introduction of African Union peacekeeping forces and the appointment of a new mayor but also a considerable change in atmosphere and move towards stability.
Nonetheless, government forces continue to patrol the damaged streets of Mogadishu, where a reported 1,600 people died in clashes over the past six weeks. Despite the relative calm, Willy Huber, Regional Director for SOS Children, highlighted the problems that remain: "Thousands of children and their mothers are now in dire need of medical assistance, in particular those who for the past weeks have been living under trees without sanitation, exposed to wet and cold nights, and with minimal water and food handouts. These families are now returning to their homes in the city where access to food, water and services is little better. Unfortunately, access to SOS medical facilities remains restricted for security reasons and so the hospital remains empty of both patients and medical personnel."
Ten days after heavy fighting took place around the SOS Children's Village in Mogadishu, when families and staff were evacuated for safety, seven families have now returned to the Village. Regional director Huber explained that security around the SOS facilities remains the major priority for the allied government and Ethiopian forces, which are still searching for insurgents in the area. As a consequence, access to the area is still very difficult and the military continues with house to house searches.
On Monday morning, Ethiopian soldiers forcibly entered the SOS School, which remains closed due to the holidays, but in the present circumstances will remain so because of the inaccessibility of the area. The soldiers were not hostile but made clear demands that all entrance gates should be manned by SOS security personnel and that they must be granted access at any time of the day or night and without delay. They added that family houses and other project facilities must also be accessible for inspection.
Although SOS has received authorisation and registration for SOS owned weapons, the regional director has advised that they should be kept in the store. Huber explained that due to the heavy security around the Village, "We do not need weapons at the moment, perhaps we won’t need any at all. Allied soldiers regularly inspect our premises; we have a letter of authorisation at hand".
Within the next two days the remaining SOS families outside the village, together with the youths, will be brought home. Clearance has been obtained for the SOS minibus to collect them. The supply situation for the village and occupants is being monitored. Huber explained that among the people of Mogadishu there is now hope that the present security situation and living conditions will eventually improve and that life in the city will return to ‘normal’. "Our SOS teams in Mogadishu and in Nairobi continue to do an amazing job" he concluded.
Relevant Countries: Somalia.