SOMALIA: Mogadishu hospital threats condemned
An injured man recovers at Madina Hospital: Threats, by unknown people, were made in leaflets found near the hospital on 7 October - file photo
NAIROBI, 8 October 2009 (IRIN) - Doctors and civil society groups have condemned anonymous threats made against personnel in Madina Hospital, the main health facility in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.
The threats were made in leaflets found near the hospital on 7 October, said Mohamed Yusuf, the hospital's director-general.
"The leaflets had pictures of a handgun and grenades and warned us not treat what the authors described as enemies," Yusuf said. They described the hospital as an "enemy compound".
He said those behind the leaflets should know that the hospital treats everyone "no matter what groups or organization. We don’t ask anyone who they belong to. We just do what we can to help them."
Yusuf, who now lives inside the hospital compound after escaping an assassination attempt earlier this year, said this was the first time the hospital had been threatened.
"We are taking the threat seriously but what we won't do is abandon our obligations to help our people," he said.
He added that health personnel in Mogadishu operated under "tremendous difficulties and we definitely don’t need this".
Ali Sheikh Yassin, deputy chairman of the Mogadishu-based Elman Human Rights Organization (EHRO), condemned the leaflets and those behind them.
"These people [medical personnel] should be commended not threatened," he said.
Abdi Ibrahim Jiya, a member of the Somalia Medical Association, told IRIN he was "sickened and saddened" by the threats.
"This is really a sad day when the few doctors left are faced with these kinds of threats," Jiya said.
He said there were not enough medical personnel in Mogadishu and the ones at Madina were dedicated to helping the population.
He said many of the medical personnel could easily find jobs in "safe" countries but had opted to stay with their people, but admitted such threats "could have a chilling effect. My hope is that they will continue helping and ignore this."
Photo: Abdi Hassan/IRIN
|Dr Mohamed Yusuf, the director-general of Madina Hospital
Over the past few years, access to medical care for civilians and displaced persons in and around the city has decreased due to escalating violence between government forces and Islamist insurgents.
Jiya said with daily shelling and fighting, some medical staff had resorted to staying in medical compounds "both for safety and to be available when needed".
Despite the difficulties faced by medical personnel, Jiya said, most doctors and nurses he knew had remained in the city. "I honestly don’t know of any who want to leave," he said.
Yusuf said many of his colleagues had been killed, kidnapped or threatened over the years; however, "this latest threat is not going to change the way we do our work. People need to understand that health workers are neutral and provide treatment to everyone, even the ones writing the leaflets and their relatives."
On 8 October, some 165 injured people, mostly injured in the ongoing fighting, were being treated in the hospital, said Yusuf. "Some would most likely die without our help. How can we abandon them?"