'Everybody in Mogadishu knows SOS Children' is something you hear often in the war-torn capital of Somalia, a city where many international aid organisations have had to give up their work, but where SOS Children has been helping since the early 1980's.
The Somali capital of Mogadishu only has five tiny functioning hospitals with a total of around 2,000 beds - in a city where hundreds of thousands of citizens and refugees need help. One of those five places that assist people in need of treatment is the SOS Children Hospital, which opened in 1989. Nine Somali doctors and a large team of nurses and midwives work here.
Every month, 500 women give birth at the maternity ward, the only functioning one in Somalia. At least once a day, the personnel save a woman's life through a caesarean. "The pressure on our hospital has grown with more and more refugees coming to Mogadishu. But because the hospital is located in one of the most troubled areas, there are times when we have to close”, says Dr Abdullahi Hussein, who is a paediatrician and director of the SOS Hospital.
Putting their lives at risk
Like all the other employees in the hospital, Abdullahi Hussein is Somali and has decided to stay in the country and help his fellow countrymen, although he has a medical degree from Italy and his family lives in England. He has worked for SOS Children since 2008.
"This is a place where I can really make a difference," says Abdullahi Hussein, who has experienced the worst consequences of the conflict in Somalia. On 3 December 2009, he participated in a presentation of diplomas for medical students which was attacked by a suicide bomber. Abdullahi Hussein was wounded and had to spend three months in a hospital in Saudi Arabia. But once he had recovered, he went back to Somalia again: "In Europe people are concerned with simple problems. Here it is for real. Life and death. When you do something here, you sleep better at night."
SOS Children have been working in Somalia since 1985. As well as providing long-term family-based care for orphaned and abandoned children in the capital Mogadishu, a hospital provides medical care for 30,000 patients every year. An SOS Children Mother and Child Clinic remains the only functioning maternity ward and gynaecological care facility in the country.
Fighting has badly affected SOS Children families and staff throughout the years and several staff have died after being hit with stray bullets and mortars. However, SOS Children has remained in Somalia and has been one of the very few NGOs to run a comprehensive social programme in the county.
East Africa is experiencing the worst drought in 60 years, with more than ten million people threatened by starvation.
Somalia has been the country hardest hit, with the UN declaring a famine in its Bakool and Lower Shabelle regions. After two decades of non-stop fighting, many of Somalia's population do not only face severe food shortages, but the constant threat of violence and conflict.
Desperate to survive, thousands of drought-affected families from all over the Bay and Bakool regions in central Somalia have moved south to the dangerous city of Mogadishu in search of food and medical care. Nearly 50,000 displaced people are now living in this area, primarily in two large refugee camps on the outskirts of the city. It is estimated that 1,000 children and families arrive in Mogadishu every day – many have travelled for days, if not weeks, and are severely malnourished.
Read more at www.soschildren.org