Two MSF Volunteers Held by RUF Rebels in Sierra Leone

New York/Paris, December 9, 1999 — A doctor and a logistician of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who were opening a health project in the district of Kailahun, have been held for 48 hours by Revolutionary United Front (RUF) authorities controlling the region. The two volunteers, with whom there has been some contact in the last two days, are Belgian and German nationals. They are reported to be in good health.

During a telephone contact, a member of RUF expressed the dissatisfaction of Mr. Sam Bockarie, one of the rebel movement's leaders, with the process of disarmament and demobilization of fighters in Sierra Leone. His complaints are directed toward the international community. According to his spokesman, Bockarie considers that the implementation of this process is not appropriate.

MSF has absolutely no implication in this process and requests that these two volunteers be allowed to leave the region of Kailahun immediately.

MSF started its activities in this area in August 1999 with vaccination campaigns against measles, polio, and tetanus. After the completion of these campaigns, the MSF team's objective has been to restart curative medical activities for the civil population for whom access to health care has been practically non-existent during the past several years.

MSF has been active in Sierra Leone since 1990. Thirty international medical volunteers are currently working in the country.

MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency aiding victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization in more than 80 countries.