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Hospitals emptying as residents flee Mogadishu

Latest update : 2008-02-02

Mogadishu hospitals are admitting fewer wounded Somalis as residents continue to flee the fighting in the capital.

MOGADISHU, Somalia, Dec. 7, 2007 -- Nurses at the Madina Hospital in the Somali capital of Mogadishu have time on their hands. Friday is Muslim prayer day and there are not many patients.

But that’s not because the fighting in one of the world’s most instable capitals is dying down. It’s simply because Mogadishu residents have been steadily fleeing the city since government forces, backed by neighboring Ethiopia, launched an offensive in late Dec. 2006 against an Islamist alliance that had gained control of much of Somalia.

The Union of Islamic Courts' (UIC) lost control of the city, but Islamist insurgents have continued to launch attacks in the capital.

The UN estimates that 60 percent of Mogadishu’s population has fled the fighting this year.

This week alone, the hospital – which keeps a tally of their patients – saw 35 people admitted for bullet wounds.

In one of the Madina Hospital wards, an emaciated man, in obvious pain, is in surgery. His lower leg was hit by a Kalashnikov bullet and he spent five days waiting for help.

"Five days, he waited five days,” says Dr. Isman Bentai in dismay. “Nobody could reach him where he got hit, in the middle of the fighting, in town.”

Bentai’s patient is dehydrated, but still alive – which is something of a miracle given the circumstances.

Islamists battle troops in an abandoned city

While Ethiopian troops – which some Somalis regard as an occupying force - are stationed in the city. But they face an uphill battle as most of the Islamist insurgents have merged into the city’s civilian population, which enables them to launch attacks.

Fearing the violence, Mogadishu residents have been moving to the neighbouring provinces. Across the city, buildings are all but empty.

“People have left Mogadishu,” says Bentai. “We have nobody. Most people preferred to leave, they fled the fighting.”

Mahmoud, a 15-year-old special-needs child was not so lucky. He was abandoned by relatives in the city. Dazed and confused, he wandered through the market of Bakara, the former financial heart of the city until he arrived at the hospital with a bullet wound. Doctors at the hospital say he was shot by Ethiopian troops. The hospital had to amputate his leg. For Mahmoud, that means he will never again walk on both legs.

Date created : 2008-02-02