Two Abducted Doctors Without Borders Staff Released in Somalia

Brussels/New York, April 28, 2009 – Two Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff, abducted on April 19 in the Bakool region of Somalia, were safely released today.

“We are incredibly relieved that our colleagues are safe and in good health.” said Dag Horntvedt, MSF’s interim Head of Mission for Somalia. “Their families have been informed and are overjoyed. We are now working on getting the two reunited with their relatives and friends as quickly as possible, and giving them all the support they may need for dealing with their experiences.”

The Belgian doctor and Dutch medical coordinator were abducted when returning from a medical supervision visit in Radbhure. On several occasions since, they managed to inform their families and colleagues, at times through the media, that they were doing as best as could be expected.

“The release of our colleagues was made possible through an impressive support of communities and leaders in Bakool and Bay, as well as in other parts of Somalia,” explained Horntvedt. “Their spontaneous mobilization for liberating our colleagues has made all the difference. This support illustrates the appreciation from the communities and their leaders for the tireless efforts of our Somali staff and international staff to bring assistance to their people.”

But Horntvedt emphasized the outrage of his organization about the abduction. “In a country like Somalia, where so many people rely on international humanitarian assistance, such acts effectively put in danger much of the health care that the population has access to.”

In Somalia’s Bakool region, MSF operates a 300-bed health center in the regional capital, Huddur, serving a population of approximately 250,000 people.

MSF began working in Somalia in 1991. In 2008, MSF teams in Somalia conducted more than 800,000 consultations. MSF is the main provider of free health care throughout central and southern Somalia, providing primary health care, malnutrition treatment, assistance to displaced people, surgery, water and relief supply distributions in 9 regions. Due to the volatile security situation, MSF currently has no international staff permanently based in the country. The organization’s lifesaving humanitarian work continues thanks to the national staff members who keep the programs running, assisted by a management team based in Nairobi who visit the projects to provide crucial support when possible.