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Médecins Sans Frontières closes centres in Somalia after attacks on staff

After 22 years of work, MSF blames civilians leaders’ tolerance of these abuses.

Image: MSF

MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÉRES (MSF) or Doctors Without Boarders has been forced to close all their medical centres in Somalia after a number of their staff were attacked.

MSF said the closures after 22 years work is “as a result of extreme 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”.

The most recent incidents include the killing of two MSF staff in Mogadishu in December 2011 and the subsequent early release of the convicted killer. It also included the violent abduction of two staff in the Dadaab refugee camps in Kenya that ended last month after a 21-month captivity in south central Somalia.

Fourteen other MSF staff members have been killed, and the organisation has experienced dozens of attacks on its staff, ambulances, and medical facilities since 1991.

“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,”said Dr. Unni Karunakara, Médecins Sans Frontières’ international president.

“Ultimately, civilians in Somalia will pay the highest cost,” added Dr. Karunakara. “Civilians leaders’ tolerance of these abuses has effectively taken away what little access to medical care is available to the Somali people.”

More than 1,500 Médecins Sans Frontières staff provided a range of services, including free primary health care, malnutrition treatment, maternal health, surgery, epidemic response, immunization campaigns, water, and relief supplies to people in Somalia.

In 2012 alone, MSF 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.

Read: MSF, Amnesty accuse Libyan authorities of torture>

More: MSF “deeply shocked” by staff killings>

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Amy Croffey

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