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Social Issues
“Extreme Attacks” Cause Doctors Without Borders To Leave Somalia After 22 Years
August 14, 2013
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Mohamed Ali, a Somalia refugee, with his son at an MSF clinic in August, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)

Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF) has been working in Somalia since 1991, but today the organization announced it is leaving the country because of "extreme attacks on its staff."

According to a statement released by MSF, the decision to withdraw from Somalia came about because civilian leaders "support, tolerate or condone the killing, assaulting and abducting" of aid workers.

In all, 16 MSF staff members have been killed while working in Somalia, and dozens of the organization's ambulances and medical facilities have been attacked.

Two workers were killed in 2011, and their convicted killer was released early, according to MSF.

somalia-attacks-msf-unni.gif"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," MSF's International President Dr. Unni Karunakara (pictured) said.

Over the course of its time in the country, MSF has had to contend with "a civil war... drought, famine, the rise of offshore piracy, and brutal sectarian violence," Dashiell Bennett writes on The Atlantic Wire.

The Atlantic also refers to the rise of Al-Shabaab, "an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist group that has taken over large swathes of the country."

As of today's announcement, the aid agency's staff in the country numbered 1,500, and it has provided health care, help with malnutrition, relief supplies, and surgery to people in Somalia. It will close all its medical programs across the country starting today.

The organization says it has accepted "serious compromises to its operational principles of independence and impartiality" while working in Somalia, including utilizing armed guards to protects its staff and tolerating "extreme limits on its ability to independently assess and respond to the needs of the population."

MSF says it accepted those compromises for as long as it did because of the "exceptional humanitarian needs in the country."

For an overview of what's been happening in Somalia since the 1991 overthrow of President Siad Barre, check out BBC's Somalia profile.



K'Naan Reflects on Returning to Somalia after 20 Years

Somalia Suffering From Cholera Outbreak

After 20 Years Of Civil War, Somalia's Capital Mogadishu Finally Has Its First Set Of Street Lights


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