23 Nov 12 28 Nov 16

Somalia: MSF responds to urgent needs on outskirts of Mogadishu

One in four children living in camps on the edge of the Somali capital are malnourished, according to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

In response to the critical situation, an MSF team launched an emergency three-day intervention to provide urgent nutritional treatment and on-site medical care to children under five.

Our medical staff visited 34 camps hosting more than 15,000 displaced people living with insufficient access to healthcare. Many have suffered multiple displacements and are extremely vulnerable.

MSF staff doing nutritional screening. Somalia 2012 © Mike Woodman/MSF

Children with malnutrition

Over three days, 1,500 children were screened for acute malnutrition and 396 were admitted to our nutritional programme, 70 of them with severe acute malnutrition.

Our team also provided emergency medical care to 162 children, referring 25 of them to the MSF paediatric hospital in the Hamar Weyne district of Mogadishu.

Most were suffering from respiratory tract infections, skin diseases and diarrhoea.

In addition, some 380 children were immunised against measles, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and polio.

Violence and health

MSF staff doing nutritional screening. Somalia 2012 © Mike Woodman/MSF

In Somalia the population remains profoundly affected by decades of violence that have wrecked the health system.

Over the past few years, thousands of Somalis have been displaced from their homes or have fled to neighbouring countries due to intense violence, drought, malnutrition and infectious diseases.

While food security seems to have improved since 2011, our assessment shows that malnutrition rates are still alarming in many parts of the country, including the outskirts of Mogadishu.

The continuing insecurity in most parts of the country and restrictions of access for humanitarian workers remain major obstacles to MSF’s medical assistance in Somalia.

In this very challenging environment, we are constantly adapting our medical response. With a restricted ability to conduct proper assessments and respond to any new acute situation, our teams are forced to implement limited interventions, with a focus on only the most critical medical needs.


In October 2011, two MSF aid workers, Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, were abducted in Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya while carrying out emergency assistance for the Somali population.

They remain in captivity, and MSF, while still responding to acute crisis requesting live saving interventions, has put on hold the opening of any non-emergency projects in Somalia until their release. 



MSF has worked continuously in Somalia since 1991, and continues to provide lifesaving medical care to hundreds of thousands of Somalis in ten regions of the country, as well as in neighbouring Kenya and Ethiopia. Over 1,400 staff, supported by approximately 100 people in Nairobi, provide a range of services, including free primary healthcare, malnutrition treatment, surgery, water and relief supply distributions and assistance to displaced people. MSF relies solely on private charitable donations for its work in Somalia and does not accept any government funding.