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Somalia: twenty years of war surgery at Mogadishu's Keysaney Hospital

07-06-2012 News Release 12/112

Geneva/Nairobi (ICRC) – For two decades, Keysaney Hospital, in north Mogadishu, has provided war surgery and emergency medical care for civilians and combatants alike. The hospital is run by the Somali Red Crescent Society with support from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). More than 216,000 people, including 30,000 with weapon-related injuries, have been treated there since 1992. The hospital's 20th anniversary was marked by the inauguration of a new operating theatre built with ICRC support.

"It's only because we are strictly neutral, and recognized as such, that we can carry out our work in such a difficult environment," said Yusuf Mohamed Hassan, the hospital's director since 2004. "Keysaney admits all patients, regardless of their clan, religion or political opinions. The services we provide are essential for the people of Mogadishu." The 90-bed hospital is currently admitting an average of 220 surgical patients each month, over 100 of whom are suffering from weapon-inflicted injuries.

When the hospital first opened in 1992, it had no surgical facilities. The ICRC transformed the building – originally intended as a detention facility – into a hospital, and staffed it with ICRC surgical teams. Since 1994, the hospital has been run by Somali staff employed by the Somali Red Crescent and trained by the ICRC. The support provided by the ICRC includes the payment of salaries and the delivery of medical supplies as well as training.

"The fact that the hospital has already been operating for 20 years is a sad reminder of the seemingly interminable suffering the Somali people have endured," said Patrick Vial, the head of the ICRC delegation for Somalia. "Nevertheless, we are proud that we have been able to consistently make essential emergency services available to all patients, no matter who they are, in very difficult circumstances."

Keysaney, which is one of two ICRC-supported surgical referral hospitals in Mogadishu, has been hit by artillery fire on numerous occasions. As recently as January of this year, it was struck by two mortar shells. In many other ways as well, the hospital has felt the full force of armed conflict. Violence against health-care workers, facilities and patients poses a serious challenge to humanitarian activities. It is imperative that international humanitarian law, which protects services provided by medical facilities such as Keysaney Hospital, be respected at all times.

For further information, please contact:
Anna Schaaf, ICRC Nairobi, tel: +254 722 512 728
Jean-Yves Clémenzo, ICRC Geneva, tel: +41 22 730 22 71 or +41 79 217 32 17