As insecurity grows, MSF pulls out of Somalia
AFPNAIROBI--Medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders (MSF) closed all its operations in war-torn Somalia on Wednesday, warning of growing insecurity, after 22 years of working in the Horn of Africa trouble spot.
August 15, 2013, 12:07 am TWN
“The closure of our activities is a direct result of extreme attacks on our staff, in an environment where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers,” MSF president Unni Karunakara told reporters.
The pullout by MSF, an aid agency that has earned a reputation for working in the toughest of conditions, is major blow to the reputation of the internationally backed government in Mogadishu and will affect hundreds of thousands of people.
“We are ending our programs in Somalia because there is an increasing imbalance between the risks and compromises that our staff must make, and our ability to provide impartial care to the Somali people,” Karunakara said in the Kenyan capital.
MSF has treated more than 300,000 people so far this year alone in Somalia, a statement added.
Karunakara, who said MSF's activities had been put under “unparalleled levels of risk,” cited the killing of two staff in Mogadishu in December 2011 — and subsequent release of the gunman — as well as the kidnapping of two MSF workers from the Kenyan refugee camp Dadaab in October 2011.
The two kidnapped staff, Spanish women working as logisticians, were released last month after 21 months in captivity in Somalia.
But MSF said that wider attacks had forced it to make the “painful” decision to shut operations.
“Respect for humanitarian principles, always fragile in conflict zones, no longer exists in Somalia today,” Karunakara added.
The closure of MSF medical operations in at least 11 sites — including in the capital Mogadishu, where MSF runs the only intensive care unit for children — will impact hundreds of thousands of the most needy Somalis, he said.