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Nurse at SOS Clinic shot dead


Sister Leonella (photo Hilary Atkins)

It is with our deepest regret that we have to announce that Sister Leonella Sgorbati, who worked training nurses in the SOS Mother and Child Clinic in Mogadishu, has died from pistol shots after an attack by gunmen earlier today. Her bodyguard was also killed.

Sister Leonella Sgorbati was from the Missionaries of the Consolation order. She was born in 1940, in Piacenza, northern Italy. She had worked for SOS Children in Somalia since 2002, where she trained nurses at the SOS Children Medical Centre.

Her bodyguard has been named as Mahamud Mohammed Osman, who had worked at the SOS Children's Village in Mogadishu for 15 years. He leaves three wives and families.

There is some speculation about the reasons for the attack, on which we are unable to comment.

The streets of Mogadishu are today quiet again as if nothing had happened. However, fewer patients than normal have visited the SOS Hospital, which is functioning normally.

In addition to Sister Leonella, a further four Italian sisters from the Consolata Order were working with SOS Children in Mogadishu - three of whom have been evacuated to Nairobi, while the fourth is currently on leave in Italy. Sister Leonella belonged to the Kenyan congregation of her order and spent approximately six months a year at the nursing school in Mogadishu in her role as the school's principal. The other sisters are from the Somali congregation of the Consolata Order.

Other foreigners working at SOS Children's Villages in Mogadishu will have the opportunity to leave Somalia tomorrow on a flight organised by the European Commision's Humanitarian Aid department, ECHO. This includes several "Kenyan Somalis" (Somalis who live in Kenya and have dual nationality), as well as a Swiss citizen, who was responsible for renovations in Mogadishu, and a gynaecologist from Eritrea.

Service of remembrance

A church service for Sister Leonella will be held at the Consolata Shrine in Nairobi's Westlands on Thursday, 21 September. Sister Leonella will be buried in Nazareth, some 20km from Nairobi.

Previous attacks

Unfortunately, it is not the first time that SOS facilities in Somalia have been the target of armed aggression. Earlier in 2006, two youths from the SOS Children's Village were injured in gunfire following five days of heavy fighting in the capital Mogadishu and in October 2003 British aid workers Dick and Enid Eyeington, who had been re-establishing the SOS school in Sheikh, Somaliland were murdered in their home.

The SOS Medical Centre, Mogadishu has three main components - Mother and Child Clinic, Emergency Paediatric Unit and a TB Treatment Centre. Each of these provide vulnerable women and children with hig-quality primary and emergency health care. There is also a Community Nursing School.

The Mother and Child Clinic has about 18,000 patients and delivers about 5,000 babies each year. In addition it receives around 250 out-patients every day. In conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO), the clinic regularly screens both in-patients and out-patients for HIV/AIDS. The Emergency Paediatric Unit also provides both in-patient and out-patient care, seeing around 67,000 patients a year. The TB Treatment Centre works with both WHO and the World Food Programme to treat patients with TB, which is endemic in Somalia and is increasing due to high rates of malnutrition and a shortage of medicines.

The Community Nursing School is the only school of its kind in Somalia and is recognised by both WHO and the International Nursing Council. Nurses are trained in community nursing. Many go on to work in the wider Somali community as well as in the SOS Medical Centre.

An interview with Sister Marzia

Read more about Sister Leonella, such a well-loved character who will be sorely missed within the world of SOS Children. One of her colleagues, Sister Marzia spoke about her late friend and colleague in an interview with SOS staff in Italy.

Relevant Countries: Somalia.

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