'We Could Be Seeing More Than 1 000a Day'

Article excerpt

Abdi Aziz: South Africa's mercy mission of hope to Mogadishu has grown beyond expectations.

As queues begin forming outside once-abandoned hospitals before sunrise, the team of medical specialists gathers.

Word that South African doctors are in the country has spread rapidly. First based at Mogadishu's biggest medical facility, the Banadir Hospital, where nine lifesaving emergency operations were performed in the mission's first three days, they have moved to one of the city's most war-ravaged areas, Abdi Aziz, a suburb that is home to more than a million people.

For three years al-Shabaab militants ruled and no one was allowed to seek medical assistance. Those who did risked death or mutilation.

Food was taken as taxes, and parents forbidden to send their children to school. The only form of education was extremist religious indoctrination.

Within an hour of doctors taking over the Forlanini Hospital, women and children were queuing for help.

"It is unbelievable. …