10 January 2011

Somalia: MSF Calls for Medical Staff's Freedom of Movement to Be Respected

press release

On 5 January 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) supervisors at Dinsor hospital, in Somalia, were prevented from leaving the town by representatives of Al Shabaab. The MSF supervisors were due to attend a technical medical training workshop in Nairobi. As of today, the situation is unsolved.

MSF is extremely concerned about the present situation. Since 2002, MSF's medical staff have been providing free medical care in the only functional hospital in Bay region. For its programs in Somalia, MSF relies solely on private donations from the general public around the world to carry out its work. Its funds are strictly dedicated to running health activities.

Despite many repeated requests addressed to the authorities, Al Shaabab has not allowed the presence of international staff of Medecins Sans Frontieres to provide direct technical support to the hospital for several months, which compromises the quality of the care provided to the population and questions the continuation of MSF support to the hospital.

"MSF urges all parties in Somalia to respect and protect all health structures and medical staff. And in particular, in those areas like Dinsor were the health structures are scarce.

The authorities should grant all available help for the performance of their duties. The freedom of movement of all medical humanitarian staff, international and Somali, is essential to exercise their functions." says Monica Rull, MSF Program manager.

MSF calls upon the authorities to stop hindering medical humanitarian efforts. To secure lifesaving assistance, MSF remains committed to engage with the authorities to establish a meaningful medical access to the civilian populations caught up in the conflict in Somalia.

Despite the challenges, MSF remains the main provider of free medical services in all of central and southern Somalia. In Dinsor, MSF runs a 65-bed facility which offers both inpatient and outpatient care.

The inpatient department (IPD), which serves the population of the entire district's approximately 110,000 people, provides paediatric and adult medical care, treatment for tuberculosis and kala azar; as well as therapeutic feeding for severely malnourished children with associated pathologies.

The outpatient department (OPD) provides curative and preventive care and it includes an ambulatory feeding centre for severely malnourished children without medical complications.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works in ten regions of Somalia, with more than 1,300 Somali staff providing medical care on the ground. Millions of people urgently require healthcare, yet the enormous gap between the needs of Somalis and the humanitarian response continues to widen.

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