Las Anod, Sool, Somalia –
The already dire humanitarian situation in the Las Anod city of Somalia’s Sool region will now probably further deteriorate. The international relief organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders) announced its decision to suspend operations in the Las Anod General Hospital.
“Recurrent attacks on medical facilities and the level of extreme violence in Las Anod have reached the threshold where MSF is no longer able to provide medical care. The protection and safety of patients, their caretakers, and health workers is no longer guaranteed,” reads the MSF statement.
Many Somalis expressed their shock over the decision on social media, some obviously outraged, others desperately worried about the fate of the beleaguered Las Anod residents.
The General Hospital, where MSF staff provided life-saving services, has been a target of indiscriminate shelling by the Somaliland forces numerous times. During at least six instances of bombing the medical facilities, an ambulance was damaged, the maternity ward had to be closed, and medical staff and caretakers got injured. According to the MSF, even minimum safety standards were not ensured.
It should be noted that the decision, however devastating for the local population, was at the sole discretion of the MSF as an independent international non-governmental organisation (INGO). The organisation works voluntarily and is not in any way obliged to keep working in hostile environments should it consider them too dangerous for its staff members. Nonetheless, hopes are high that the MSF will move its operations to safer centres in Las Anod’s immediate vicinity, such as Garowe, Buuhoodle (also known as Bohotle) or Kalabaydh, thereby assisting thousands of refugees fleeing Las Anod.
WHO blamed Somaliland
MSF is not the first respected international organisation that raised concern about Somaliland’s shelling of medical facilities in Las Anod. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently raised similar concerns regarding the destruction of ambulances in Las Anod’s General Hospital. The government in Hargeisa soon responded to the accusations, saying it was “deeply disturbed” by WHO’s report. A few days later, the shelling continued rather undisturbed again.
FGS remains silent
In a deafening silence, the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS) remains reserved about the brutal conflict taking place within the nation’s de-jure boundaries. A knowledgeable internal source told the Somali Digest in June that directors of Somali state-run media outlets, Somali National Television (SNTV), Radio Muqdisho, and the Somali National News Agency (SONNA) allegedly refused to cover the dire situation in Las Anod. The orders reportedly came from the Minister of Information and his deputy.