January 07, 2012

Humanitarian Work in Somalia Threatened

Recent attacks on aid workers and the ongoing abduction of two colleagues in Somalia jeopordize life-saving medical projects and must be condemned in the strongest terms.

January 7, 2012 – One week ago, a gunman killed Phillipe Havet and Andrias Karel Keiluhuo, two Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) aid workers, while they were implementing emergency assistance projects in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Three months ago, MSF staff members Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut were abducted in the Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya while providing emergency assistance for the Somali population there.

These attacks on aid workers must be condemned in the strongest terms, MSF said today. They jeopardize life-saving medical projects that are already far from adequate in addressing the vast medical needs of the Somali population.

MSF is confronting the difficult dilemma of working in a context like Somalia, where the needs are not only extremely great, but the risks are exceptionally high for the safety and security of all staff. As we consider this dilemma, MSF is requesting that all people—especially the authorities in control of areas in Somalia where our kidnapped colleagues are being detained—do everything possible to facilitate the safe release of Blanca and Montserrat.

MSF has been working in Somalia continuously since 1991, assisting Somalis in need on all sides of ongoing conflict. Over the last six months, MSF has treated 225,000 patients in Somalia, vaccinated 110,000 children and cared for 30,000 malnourished children in 14 projects. Additionally, MSF provides assistance to Somali refugees in nine projects in Kenya and Ethiopia, where finding the balance between the massive medical needs of the population and the risks that MSF teams are forced to endure is increasingly challenging. The net result is that the Somali population—extremely vulnerable after 20 years of civil war, international interventions, and institutional collapse—receives less assistance than it needs.

“To effectively continue our medical humanitarian work for populations affected by violence in Somalia, MSF needs all parties to the conflict, the leadership as well as the people of Somalia, to support us in this work and help ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers,” said Dr.Unni Karunakara, international president of MSF. “For our colleagues Philippe and Kace, this failed tragically. For Blanca and Mone, the leadership and people of Somalia have the responsibility to facilitate the safe and prompt resolution of their abduction.”

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