Médecins Sans Frontières Pulls Out of Somalia
15 August 2013 at 12:15 pm
International medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) has closed all of its programs in Somalia as the result of violent attacks and what it says is a lack of respect for humanitarian work.
The organisation has been working in Somalia since 1991 but has suffered attacks on its staff in an environment where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers, it said.
Médecins Sans Frontières says it will be closing its medical programmes in the capital Mogadishu and the suburbs of Afgooye and Daynille, as well as in Balad, Dinsor, Galkayo, Jilib, Jowhar, Kismayo, Marere, and Burao.
More than 1,500 staff provided a range of services, including free primary health care, malnutrition treatment, maternal health, surgery, epidemic response, immunisation campaigns, water, and relief supplies.
In the past 22 years 38 Australians and New Zealanders have worked inSomalia with Médecins Sans Frontières.
Médecins Sans Frontières’ International President Dr. Unni Karunakara said Médecins Sans Frontières was ending its programs in Somalia because the situation in the country has created an “untenable imbalance” between the risks and compromises its staff must make, and its ability to provide assistance to the Somali people.
“In choosing to kill, attack, and abduct humanitarian aid workers, these armed groups, and the civilian authorities who tolerate their actions, have sealed the fate of countless lives in Somalia,” Dr Karunakara said.
“Ultimately, civilians in Somalia will pay the highest cost.
“Much of the Somali population has never known the country without war or famine. Already receiving far less assistance than is needed, the armed groups’ targeting of humanitarian aid and civilians leaders’ tolerance of these abuses has effectively taken away what little access to medical care is available to the Somali people.”
The most recent incidents include the killing of two staff in Mogadishu in December 2011 and the subsequent early release of the convicted killer; and the violent abduction of two staff in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya that ended only last month after a 21-month captivity in south central Somalia.
The organisation said these two incidents were just the latest in a series of extreme abuses.
Fourteen other Médecins Sans Frontières staff members have been killed, and the organisation has experienced dozens of attacks on its staff, ambulances, and medical facilities since 1991, the organisation said.
Beyond the killings, abductions, and abuses against its staff, the organisation said operating in Somalia meant Médecins Sans Frontières had to take the “exceptional measure” of utilising armed guards, which it does not do in any other country, and had to tolerate “extreme limits” on its ability to independently assess and respond to the needs of the population.
In the past year, Médecins Sans Frontières teams provided more than 624,000 medical consultations, admitted 41,100 patients to hospitals, cared for 30,090 malnourished children, vaccinated 58,620 people, and delivered 7,300 babies.
Throughout its 22-year history in Somalia, Médecins Sans Frontières staff have been aware of how great the needs are of the Somali population.
Médecins Sans Frontières said it remains committed to addressing the “tremendous needs” through medical care and humanitarian assistance but said all actors in Somalia must “demonstrate a willingness and ability to facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance to the Somali people and respect for the safety of the humanitarian aid workers who risk their lives to care for them.”