PARIS/NORTH KIVU, DRC—One of four members of a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team abducted in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo, more than one year ago was found unharmed Friday, August 29. There is no news regarding the three other staff members. MSF continues its search for them and has issued a new appeal to anyone who may be in a position to secure their release.
Chantal Kaghoma Vulinzole was kidnapped along with three MSF colleagues, Philippe, Richard, and Romy, on July 11, 2013 during an attack on Kamango, which was blamed on the ADF-NALU armed group. Chantal, a nurse originally from Goma, was a member of the MSF emergency team that disappeared during a mission to evaluate health facilities in Beni territory. MSF is thrilled over her release.
After more than 13 months of captivity under difficult conditions, Chantal was able to flee and reach troops, taking advantage of military operations in the bush against the ADF-NALU. She was found weak and thin and was returned safely to Beni by Congolese armed forces.
“It is an immense relief for her family, her friends and all of her colleagues to know that she is alive and with us again,” said Mégo Terzian, president of MSF-France. “We also want to believe that our three other colleagues—about whom we have no information—will also return. We are thinking of their families and of all the hostages. We will not forget you."
MSF has been unable to establish contact with the three other abducted staff members, despite exerting concerted efforts in both DRC and neighboring countries.
“Chantal was separated from her three colleagues and was no longer in contact with them when she escaped,” said Benoît Leduc, crisis cell coordinator in Paris. “Our search continues, with the ADF group now dispersed and, probably, disorganized.”
MSF has not been unable to obtain proof of life or direct access to those holding the remaining staff members.
“People are willing to help us, but each time we seem to be close, our contacts report a last-minute obstacle, or the people who might have the power to free the hostages do an about-face,” said Leduc.
To save their lives and ease their families’ pain, MSF continues efforts to find Philippe, Richard, and Romy. Given the difficulties encountered, MSF is calling for assistance from anyone with information about them or from those who can help establish contact with them and secure their immediate release.