A Somali civilian's life is tragic and depressing. During the conflict in Muqdisho, lack of food and shelter was a serious problem. Many of the children became skinny and their bones were visible through their bare skin. Housing was not very stable or secure. The Mosque was the only building that was taken care of because religion was important to Somalis. As a result of these conditions, the UN offered to give a helping hand by giving the Somalis food. But then a warlord named Aidid and his militiamen started ambushing the food convoys in order to get the food for themselves. Control over the food distibution was better than money. The Americans were angered by Aidid's actions and they wanted to capture Aidid and his militiamen. American troops started attacking key places where Aidid was believed to be. Many innocent civilians were killed during these attacks. The Somalis became hostile towards the Americans and started retaliating against the Americans, creating more chaos. Many of the civilians, including women and children also fought in battle and resulted in many more deaths and injuries.
Due to the lack of record keeping, the numbers of deaths and injured bodies will remain unknown. Americans estimated that about 1000-1500 Somali militiamen and civilians died in the Battle of Muqdisho, with about 3000-4000 injuries. Even after the battle ended, there were many accounts of local hospital and clinics who were totally overwhelmed and busy tending to the wounded and the dead.
The Somali victims were a mixture of militiamen and local civilians many of which were used as human shields. Aideed's forces used civilians by pushing them out in front of their fighters as a screen, according to the Americans. The Americans continued to fire despite the fact that civilians werer caught in the crossfire. American troops Providing medical support for the Somali civilians was not part of the original mission statement, but the medical planning took into account of the possibility of AMEDD (Army Medical Department) tasks to treat the civilians. The medical staff still ended up treating the Somalis. The medical staff and the enlisted personnel saw that the community was in need of their help. Originally, the medical staff was highly motivated in participating in the humanitarian relief effort and providing care for the Somali nation.
This created a problem the commanders who were worrying about the possibility for "mission creeps". These problems include what level of medical care to provide the Somali civilians. For example, whether to treat a medical condition that the AMEDD staff knew was treatable, but not for diseases such as cancer. Also there were issues about how they should transfer patients to the community provider and what treatment provided if the patient(s) would not have a place to go. Also, from an operational point of view, if they treated Somalis, they might use up beds in the hospital field and reduce the medical supplies. But that was not the worse part. Once the U.S casualties increased and the beds were needed for the incoming wounded, the civilians actually had to be immediately discharged whether they are ready or not.
Furthermore, as the Somali support got worse, and the risk of U.S personnel being wounded and shot increased, it lead to a great deal of anger and bitterness from the medical staff and debate if they should continue the treatment for the Somali nations. Also, there were more problems involved placing the Somalis on the same area as the U.S soldiers for care.
In conclusion, the Swedish hospital in Somalia recommended that if the civilians were going to be treated, they should separate the civilians and the military so that it could minimize conflicts. Doing this requires having enough beds to effect the separation, but the army was well situated to do this, given the equipment that is part of the Medical Force XXI. Also, the Swedes voted to give different levels of care to the civilians.
"Battle of Mogadishu." Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia.
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Rand Corporation . 12 Jul 2006