Calls for release of abducted colleagues Humanitarian work in Somalia is threatened. Two Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff, Phillipe Havet and Andrias Karel Keiluhuo, were killed Dec. 29 by a gunman while implementing emergency assistance projects in Mogadishu. Three months ago, two MSF workers, Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, were abducted in Dadaab refugee camp in northern Kenya while carrying out emergency assistance for the Somali population. These attacks on aid workers must be condemned in the strongest of terms. They put in jeopardy lifesaving medical projects that are already far from adequate in addressing the scope of the medical needs of the Somali population.


Somalia © Yann Libessart/MSF
An MSF staff examines a young patient in MSF’s intensive therapeutic feeding centre in the Hamar Jabbab neighbourhood in Mogadishu.

MSF is confronting the difficult dilemma of working in a context like Somalia where the needs are not only extremely great but the risks are also exceptionally high for the safety and security of all our staff. As we consider this challenge, MSF is requesting that all people, especially the authorities in control of areas in Somalia where our kidnapped colleagues are being detained, do everything possible to facilitate the safe release of Blanca Thiebaut and Montserrat Serra. MSF has been present in Somalia continuously since 1991 assisting Somalis in need on all sides of ongoing fighting and conflicts.  Over the last six months, MSF has treated 225,000 patients in Somalia, vaccinated 110,000 children and cared for 30,000 malnourished children in 14 projects. Additionally, MSF provides assistance to Somali refugees in nine projects in Kenya and Ethiopia, where finding the balance between the massive medical needs of the population and the risks that MSF teams are forced to endure is increasingly challenging. The result is that the Somali population – extremely vulnerable after 20 years of civil war, international interventions and institutional collapse – gets less assistance than it needs.


Somalia © Martina Bacigalupo
Houses in ruins in the Hodan neighbourhood in Mogadisu after Al-Shabaab’s withdrawl. Long on the front lines of the violence, it is one of the most destroyed parts of Mogadishu.

“To effectively continue our medical humanitarian work in Somalia to support the population affected by the conflict, MSF needs all parties to the conflict, the leadership as well as the people of Somalia to support us in this work and help ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers,” says, Unni Karunakara, physician and international president of MSF.  “For our colleagues Philippe and Kace, this failed tragically. For Blanca and Mone, the leadership and people of Somalia have the responsibility to facilitate the safe and prompt resolution of their abduction.”


Kenya © Brendan Bannon
An MSF ambulance arrives to pick up patients indentified by community health surveillance teams at the Dadaab refugee camp reception centre.