Somalia: MSF shuts two big medical centres in Mogadishu

An MSF clinic in Somalia (Copyright Yann Libessart/MSF)
Image caption The closure of the centres halves the medical assistance MSF is providing in Mogadishu

Two major medical centres run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the Somali capital have closed.

The charity said it had taken the decision after two MSF workers, a Belgian administrator and Indonesian doctor, were killed last month.

The announcement comes as at least two people were killed by a bomb in a Mogadishu refugee camp, officials say.

Last August, Islamists militants withdrew from Mogadishu, which is controlled by the UN-backed government.

About 300,000 people have since flooded into the city seeking famine relief.

The BBC's Mogadishu correspondent Mohamed Moalimu, currently in London, says most of them have been housed in displacement camps in the area where the two MSF centres were based.

The East African region is suffering from its worst drought in 60 years. Many Somalis have fled rural areas controlled by the Islamist al-Shabab group as it has banned most Western aid agencies from operating in its territory.

Somalia is said to be one of the world's most dangerous places for aid workers to operate.

Six months of famine

The bomb exploded just 20 minutes after a team of international journalists had left the Mogadishu camp.

They had gone to Mogadishu to see the situation six months after the famine was first declared.

One of those killed was a security guard and the other a local aid worker, witnesses said.

The AFP news agency quotes an unnamed UN security official as saying that six people were killed, including two police officers. This has not been confirmed.

The camp was not far from the two MSF medical centres.

Image caption MSF workers Andrias Karel Keiluhu (L) and Philippe Havet were killed in Mogadishu on 29 December

"It is hard to close health services in a location where the presence of our medical teams is genuinely life-saving every day," MSF head Christopher Stokes said in a statement.

"But the brutal assassination of our colleagues in Hodan makes it impossible for us to continue working in this district of Mogadishu," he said.

The two foreign MSF workers were killed on 29 December in one of the charity's compounds by a Somali national.

The man had fired the shots after being placed under investigation for alleged fraud. He was then arrested.

The two 120-bed medical centres which have been closed were the largest of MSF's 13 projects in Somalia and halve the assistance the charity provides in the capital.

According to MSF, since August the Hodan medical centres had treated nearly 12,000 malnourished children and more than 1,200 for patients for diarrhoea. At least 861 were treated for measles, while 67,200 children were vaccinated against the disease.

Our correspondent says they mainly treated displaced people affected by the food crisis, while the city's two main hospitals - Medina and Keydsaney - are run by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Earlier this week, the UN said a quarter of a million Somalis were still suffering from the famine and the crisis was likely to continue for the next six or seven months.

In October, two MSF staff were kidnapped from the Dadaab refugee camp over the border in Kenya, which is home to almost half a million Somalis who have fled conflict and drought.

The two Spanish women are believed to be held in Somalia.

"MSF strongly reiterates its call to all parties, the leadership and the people of Somalia to facilitate the safe release of Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut," the MSF statement said.

The war-torn country has been without a central functioning government since 1991, with rival militias vying for power.

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