Two Doctors Without Borders Aid Workers Freed in Bossaso, Somalia

Bossaso, Somalia/Barcelona, January 2, 2008 — Mercedes García and Pilar Bauza, a Spanish doctor and an Argentinian nurse who work for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Somalia, were freed today at 2:30 PM local time. MSF is relieved that the two have been liberated after one week in captivity. Mercedes and Pilar are in a good health.

The two expatriates were abducted by force by a group of armed persons on December 26 while riding in an MSF vehicle on their way to work in a feeding centre where MSF is assisting some 7,000 children under five who suffer from malnutrition. These children are among the estimated 25,000 internally displaced people living in 19 camps in the region. The international medical humanitarian organization demanded the immediate and safe release of its two staff members since the first moments of the incident.

“They have been freed and are healthy. We also want to thank everyone involved in helping to resolve this incident safely and peacefully,” said Dr.Paula Farias, president of MSF in Spain.

“We want to express our indignation for the kidnapping which also means the kidnapping of independent humanitarian action,” added Dr. Farias. “Such actions are unacceptable and jeopardize humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable populations, which is the reason why our two colleagues were working in Somalia.”

“The civilian population pays the consequences of the ongoing conflict in Somalia, and the survival of the majority of the Somalis depends on external assistance given by a few humanitarian organizations and international agencies,” stated Farias. “Somalia has been a forgotten crisis and such incidents only increase the suffering of the Somalis.”

In the countries where humanitarian action takes place, the level of violence can be very high. MSF has suffered incidents in the last years in Chechnya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Colombia, and Iraq.

Although some international personnel have been evacuated, the MSF programs in Somalia will continue to assist the thousands of people affected by the conflict there.

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.