"The most important component of our work in the country has been seeing to the food needs of the people, thanks to these efforts people are no longer at such great risk of starving to death. The feeding project has two components; wet and dry feeding. Wet feeding provides freshly cooked meals to the many that are still trickling into Mogadishu from around the country. The dry feeding component focuses on the short term needs by providing a 4 week ration of flour, rice and oil."
Patel said at each site that they visited daily for the week, they witnessed thousands of Somali families for whom this aid was a life saving necessity. "AIF has not set up tent villages in Mogadishu because the property where displaced camps are found is all privately owned and the communities now here belong to other parts of the country and are being hosted temporarily," Patel reported.
He added that health and medical amenities in Somalia are in a desperate state. "Very often the even most basic supplies are not available to the few medical personnel. The seriousness of this situation was made apparent this past week; Medina and Benadir hospitals are two of the largest in Mogadishu and most of the injured from Tuesday’s bombing were taken there. Two of the most basic needs in any medical facility were again limited; bed space and oxygen. The hospitals did not have enough oxygen for the many victims who needed it and many patients already admitted into hospital before the incident, were relocated on floors to accommodate for the inflow of many burn patients."
Starvation has left millions of people with serious medical risks as well. In addition, malnutrition has compromised their immune systems and as a result hundreds of thousands of Somalis are ridden with disease. The most vulnerable of this community are the children and pregnant and lactating women another major medical concern is cataract which many old people are suffering from, Patel said.
He said AIF has approached its relief in the Horn of Africa very strategically, using mobile clinics to travel across Mogadishu to IDP (internally displaced peoples) camps. "The first component of the medical relief is supplementation, the provision of vitamin and nutritional supplementation is critical in order to boost the immune system and enable the individual to fight off the many diseases attacking the body."
In addition, the clinics are vaccinating patients against the many diseases born from the famine and displacement, these include measles, tettinitus, bronchitis, cholera and polio to name the few most life threatening and are extended to many other problems such as diabetes and heart diseases. Starvation has resulted in organ damage among many and the old are especially vulnerable.
Apart from these vaccinations, doctors at mobile clinics are treating patients symptomatically, with the aim of relieving pain and preventing death. "The seriousness of the scourge of disease is very apparent when one witnesses the thousands queuing to be seen to by the 3 doctors of the mobile clinic, at the hight of the crises the doctors would observe and estimated 2000 patients, currently the daily traffic can be estimated around 750 to 1,000."
Another much needed project is the hospital that AIF is now establishing in Mogadishu. The 22 room facility will have equipment and supplies much needed in this country, administered and run by medical specialists from outside and within the country. According to AIF, the hospital will not only host and treat Somali patients, but will also train and skill local doctors in dealing with medical needs of the country."
According to AIF, the current situation in Somalia has greatly improved in that many of the famine stricken are no longer at such a huge risk of immediate death. "While this is a great achievement, the work must continue and the need is still very great. Somalia is unable to do this on its own because of the destruction from a decade of conflict. So we have embarked on a 36 month redevelopment program, setting up an office in Mogadishu where we will run many short to medium term projects aimed at rehabilitating the country."
The most pressing infrastructural projects, AIF said, include water purification and provision and agricultural development and training this will enable people to provide for themselves and resume life as normal. Another concern is IDPP’s who are presently seeking shelter in feeble makeshift tiny structures. "A question often asked why AIF and other humanitarian agencies of note not develop a tent city for the IDP’s as it has in Pakistan?
"The answer is quite simple. We would have welcomed and embraced such an option. But, authorities have advised against such a move as land in Mogadishu is predominantly privately owned and much limited. There are also many tribal and internal issues compounding such an option. Dealing with the many issues facing this country requires a multilayered approach. Somalia is a complex country and the problems are widespread and serious," Patel said.
"Qatar Red Crescent’s director of health said to me that only a relief organization with high levels of skills, experience and capabilities is able to navigate the needs of the many in this country. When one analyses the statement in the context of conflict, drought, famine, diseases and the absence of infrastructure what becomes apparent is not only the scale of Al Imdaad’s operations, but also the expertise and capabilities with which the foundation operates," he concluded. VOC