MSF Asks Somali Authorities for Safe and Immediate Release of Two Staff Members

'Our priority now is that our two colleagues are released without harm'

Bossaso, Somalia/Barcelona, December 26, 2007 — After confirming that two of its staff members have been taken by force this morning in Bossaso, Somalia, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has urgently called for the immediate and safe release of its colleagues: Mercedes García, a Spanish doctor, and Pilar Bauza, an Argentinean nurse.  They were taken while on their way to a MSF feeding center set up to treat malnourished children near camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees in Bossaso, in the Puntland region of Somalia.

The MSF nutrition project provides care for 7,000 malnourished children under five years of age. The children are among the estimated 25,000 IDPs living in 19 camps in the area.

At this time, no further details of the circumstances of the incident can be confirmed. Part of the Bossaso MSF team has been evacuated. There are three international colleagues who remain in the project. The organization is in contact with local and national authorities.

Since MSF activities began in Bossaso, the team has not been subject to any direct attack or threat. However, the situation in the zone is precarious due to various acts of violence by armed groups.

“Our main priority now is that our two colleagues are released without harm. We denounce attacks against humanitarian aid workers that are making access to vulnerable populations more difficult. Somalia is forgotten and these incidents only worsen the suffering of the people,” said Dr. Paula Farias, president of MSF in Spain.

MSF has worked continuously in Somalia for more than 16 years and is currently providing medical care in eleven regions in the country. There are some 60 MSF international staff and more than 800 national staff now working in Somalia, performing more than 300,000 outpatient consultations and admitting an estimated 10,000 patients every year. The MSF project in Bossaso began in May 2007 and is staffed by eight international and 100 national aid workers.