Doctors Without Borders facing dilemma in Somalia

2011-12-31 13:10

Brussels - Medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders said Friday it believed the killing of two staff members in the war-torn Somali capital was an isolated act but that it was reviewing its work in the area.

MSF confirmed that Philippe Havet, a 53-year-old emergency coordinator from Belgium, and Andrias Karel Keiluhu, known as Kace, a 44-year old doctor from Indonesia, were killed in a shooting in its Mogadishu compound Thursday.

"It appears to be an isolated act by an individual whose contract was not renewed, and it was this that motivated his actions," said Christopher Stokes, director general of MSF Belgium.

But he said MSF (Medicins Sans Frontieres) was "facing a dilemma" between its desire to continue humanitarian assistance in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers, and the risk involved.

"While it appears to be an isolated act, he acted within a context of widespread violence in a country where every man has a weapon," Stokes said.

With two Spanish aid workers with MSF still held hostage in Somalia, the group is currently "reassessing" the possibility of keeping on with its work in the region, Stokes added.

"Our intention is to try to continue humanitarian assistance in Somalia, but we must also analyse how someone was able to enter with a gun despite security measures at the MSF office," he added.

The bodies of the dead workers were flown out of the Horn of Africa nation Friday to Kenya, along with other international staff, said Somali security official Mohamed Ibrahim.

The shooting was the latest attack on humanitarian officials in Somalia, one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers.

Earlier, MSF said in a statement that it will be relocating some staff for security reasons, but "remains committed to continuing our humanitarian work in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia".

Security forces arrested the gunman, who witnesses and police identified as a Somali employee with MSF.

Havet had worked with MSF since 2000 in several countries, including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Indonesia, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Somalia.

Keiluhu had worked with MSF since 1998 in his native Indonesia as well as in Ethiopia, Thailand and Somalia.

Somalia, ravaged by nearly uninterrupted civil war for the past two decades was also the Horn of Africa country hardest hit by this year's bruising drought.

Three regions of south Somalia are in a state of famine, and close on 250,000 people are in danger of dying of starvation, according to the UN.

Last week a gunman killed three Somali aid workers, including two World Food Programme staff, in the central Hiran region.

In mid-October, two Spaniards working for MSF were seized by gunmen in Kenya's giant Dadaab camp, some 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Somali border and home to thousands of Somali refugees, and taken to Somalia by their captors.

MSF has been working in Somalia since 1991, providing medical care including nutritional support and vaccination campaigns, as well as aiding the hundreds of thousands of Somali refugees who have fled to surrounding nations.

Read more on:    doctors without borders  |  somalia

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