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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 11:06 GMT 12:06 UK
Militiamen shut Somalia hospital
By Mohamed Olad Hassan
BBC, Mogadishu

Mother of sick child (Archive pic)
Somalis have been trying to cope without a government since 1991
The only free hospital in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, has closed after medical workers went on strike because of threats from gunmen.

Hundreds of women and sick children gathered outside the SOS Hospital, pleading for medical attention.

Many were shrieking with pain. The patients inside were evacuated.

The gunmen were sent to the hospital three weeks ago by the family of a woman whose womb was removed during a life-saving operation.

Somalia has had no central government since 1991, with rival warlords fighting for control.

Camel compensation

Several women were sobbing because all the other clinics in Mogadishu are private, and prohibitively expensive for all but the rich.

I was waiting to be thanked but, instead, I am receiving death threats
Doctor Bashir Sheikh
Some 20 armed men have been patrolling the wards since the end of last month, preventing medical staff from performing operations and tending to the sick.

The hospital workers say that they will carry on with their strike until the militiamen are withdrawn from the building.

But the woman's family are insisting that the militiamen will continue to occupy the hospital until they are compensated for the removal of her womb.

The family is demanding 50 camels, which is the traditional Somali compensation offered for the death of a woman.

The woman's family say she is as good as dead because she can no longer bear children.

Failed mediation

However, Bashir Sheikh, the doctor who removed her uterus, says that he had to do so in order to save her life, as she was carrying a dead baby.

"I was waiting to be thanked", he said, "but, instead, I am receiving death threats".

Mogadishu's traditional elders have been trying to mediate between the woman's family and the hospital, but have made no progress.

Religious leaders, women's organisations and ordinary citizens have also been calling on the family to withdraw their militiamen from the hospital.

Your comments on this story:

The woman's family should thank the doctor for saving her life instead sending gunmen and trying to close the hospital. There are some poor people who using the hospital. The baby is dead as the doctor said before I think is time to leave the poor people and their only free hospital alone.
ismail ali , London/ UK

Somali warlords should be held responsible for atrocities in hospitals and general lack of trained medics in the country. UN should intervene and save the life of young Somali generations
yussuf dayib, nairobi,kenya

This woman and her family are wicked, instead of thanking the doctor for saving life they pay him back by harassing him and that of the poor and sickly people in the hospital. UN please save the people of Somali the suffering is too much for them.
Adikali bakarr kanu, Freetown, Sierra Leone

Can these militia get any lower. Do these people have faith or an ounce of humanity? For goodness sake, we are taking about sick people here. Even if the doctor in question has made a professional error of judgement, this doesn't provide an excuse for the family to hold the hospital ransom. It is about time the world does something about the suffering of Somalis.
Ahmed Ashour, UK/Somalilander

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29 Jan 04  |  Africa

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