New York/Nairobi, Kenya, April 3, 2008—Following the killing of three staff members on January 28, the medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has decided to close its project in the southern city of Kismayo, Somalia. Although activities in Kismayo will end, MSF remains committed to providing medical care to the Somali people, therefore projects in other locations in Somalia will continue to operate.
"This has been an extremely difficult decision to make," said Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF’s Director of Operations for Somalia. "There is a significant need for independent humanitarian assistance in Kismayo, but we cannot continue working in a place where our staff have been deliberately targeted and brutally murdered.” MSF condemns attacks against humanitarian aid workers and their consequences on the delivery of assistance to vulnerable populations in Somalia.
Somalia is currently facing an unprecedented crisis with escalating violence, massive displacement and acute unmet medical needs. Hundreds of thousands of Somalis are struggling to survive and are in urgent need of immediate assistance. They are the indirect victims of any attack on humanitarian workers.
Immediately after the attack, MSF suspended its international staff presence in the country. Although dedicated to assisting the Somali people, ensuring the safety of our staff and medical facilities is our first priority. Over the past few weeks, careful analysis of the different project locations across the country has been made in order to determine local security conditions. MSF has now returned with limited international staff to selected locations, where security conditions were deemed acceptable.
In September 2007, MSF started working in Kismayo with a surgical program providing emergency trauma and obstetric care. More than 400 surgeries and 1,200 emergency consultations were performed by our medical staff before the closure of the program.
MSF has worked continuously in Somalia for more than 17 years and is currently providing medical care in ten regions in the country. In 2007, MSF opened several new projects in response to the enormous medical and humanitarian needs arising from the ongoing conflict. Medical teams performed more than 2,500 surgical operations, 520,000 outpatient consultations and admitted around 23,000 patients to hospitals.