Los Angeles, Calif. – Armed men identifying themselves as Al-Shabab, a splinter group of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), invaded four International Medical Corps (IMC) offices in the Bakool and Bay regions of Somalia on Wednesday. Al-Shabab demanded keys to all offices and warehouses and in the subsequent two days looted IMC property from all four sites, including drugs, medical supplies, equipment and supplementary and therapeutic food intended for malnourished children. No IMC staff was injured during the course of these attacks.
International Medical Corps has been working in Somalia since 1991, and in the Bakool and Bay regions serves a total population of more than 370,000 persons, including 53,000 children under five years of age. Health and nutrition services are provided through 48 health posts and 16 feeding centers in the two regions. IMC provides emergency obstetric care at a clinic in Bakool for pregnant women experiencing life-threatening complications. To increase income generation and improve food security, IMC provides seeds and equipment to vulnerable communities. In addition, IMC has been working with community members to improve access to safe water and sanitation.
With its offices looted and under the control of armed militants, International Medical Corps has been forced to suspend operations in these areas, leaving over 370,000 beneficiaries without access to basic and lifesaving services.
“International Medical Corps is deeply concerned about the impact of these attacks on the health of already suffering Somali people, especially children,” said Rabih Torbay, Vice President of International Operations. “As a result of the current drought, food crisis and ongoing violence, IMC has seen the number of malnourished children in its programs more than double in recent months. These children and their families will now be left without any care.”
Al-Shabab’s attack on International Medical Corps’ offices is the latest in a growing number of security incidents that have put the lives of relief workers and the general population at risk, and have jeopardized the continuation of critical humanitarian services.
International Medical Corps implements a broad range of vital health care, nutrition, livelihoods and water and sanitation programs throughout Somalia. A country where clan rivalry, cyclical droughts, and a heavy burden of disease present ongoing perils to the population, Somalia is often called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Since its inception nearly 25 years ago, International Medical Corps’ mission has been consistent: relieve the suffering of those impacted by war, natural disaster and disease, by delivering vital health care services that focus on training. This approach of helping people help themselves is critical to returning devastated populations to self-reliance. For more information visit our website at http://www.imcworldwide.org.