The International Committee of the Red Cross reports that ongoing fighting in Somalia's Middle Juba region is preventing many wounded people from reaching medical facilities.
The International Committee of the Red Cross reports more than 100 wounded people, mainly civilians, did manage to get to medical facilities during the latest round of fighting in Middle Juba.
An ICRC spokesman, Marcal Izard, tells VOA the Red Cross fears that others in need of care are not able to reach local hospitals.
“There are not many clinics in the area for a start, and second of all, it is very dangerous now at this moment to actually go out of a home and to make all the way to a hospital because we do not know if you will be trapped in the fighting," he said. "The greatest needs are of course access, to make sure that all these patients who might be scattered around in different locations of this big country, of this huge area, that they might be able to reach a hospital in time so their lives can be saved.”
Izard says Somali hospitals are often overwhelmed by a heavy influx of patients. Besides being understaffed, he says hospitals and clinics are almost chronically short of medical materials to treat the wounded.
He says the ICRC recently sent urgently needed supplies to various medical facilities on both sides of the front line in Kismayo, Afmadow and Dhobley, where Kenyan soldiers are battling Somali militants.
Middle Juba is in southern Somalia, near the Kenyan border. The Kenyan forces crossed into Somalia on October 16, following the kidnapping of several foreigners on Kenyan territory, allegedly by al-Shabab fighters. Kenya has vowed to wipe out the militant Islamist group. But this has not proven to be easy to do.
The Kenyan presence is complicating an already complex situation in an area where different armed groups and Somali government troops have been fighting for years.
Red Cross spokesman Izard says it is civilians who are bearing the brunt of this unstable situation. He says it also is affecting the ability of aid agencies to work in the region.
“Over the past month, there has been a new wave of fighting. I would say since the last two or three months," he said. "It has also particularly become dangerous for aid agencies to be in the south because of this renewed fighting and because of all the banditry. Actually, it is not all armed group[s], but also bandits who [are] rampant. But actually, it is a dangerous area and it is difficult for aid agencies, at this moment, to operate there.”
Izard says the ICRC is able to operate freely in the area. He says the agency is in dialogue with all the armed groups, as well as government and Kenyan troops. He says all the warring factions accept the ICRC because of its neutral position.
The Red Cross is calling on all warring parties to comply with international humanitarian law by sparing those who are not part of the hostilities, including civilians and the wounded.