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Africa

Medical charity quits Somalia

The aid group Doctors Without Borders says it is pulling out of Somalia after 22 years there because of attacks on its staff. The Somalian government said the move would embolden al-Qaida-linked militants.

ATTENTION EDITORS - REUTERS PICTURE HIGHLIGHT TRANSMITTED BY 1745 GMT ON JULY 27, 2013 AFR501 - Turkish embassy staff carry their wounded colleague on a stretcher after a suicide car bomb attack at the gates of an office housing Turkish embassy staff in Somalia's capital Mogadishu. REUTERS/Feisal Omar REUTERS NEWS PICTURES HAS NOW MADE IT EASIER TO FIND THE BEST PHOTOS FROM THE MOST IMPORTANT STORIES AND TOP STANDALONES EACH DAY. Search for TPX in the IPTC Supplemental Category field or IMAGES OF THE DAY in the Caption field and you will find a selection of 80-100 of our daily Top Pictures. REUTERS NEWS PICTURES. TEMPLATE OUT

Somalia Mogadischu Anschlag auf türkische Botschaft 27.07.2013

In a scathing indictment of Somalia's leaders, Doctors Without Borders said the decision to close all operations in the country was the result of extreme attacks on its staff. In a press release it referred to an environment "where armed groups and civilian leaders increasingly support, tolerate, or condone the killing, assaulting, and abducting of humanitarian aid workers."

Doctors Without Borders, commonly known by its French acronym MSF, has seen 16 staff members killed in Somalia since 1991, including two killed in 2011 in Mogadishu. MSF on Wednesday (14.08.2013) pointed to those two deaths and "the subsequent early release of the convicted killer" as contributing to its decision.

Two Spanish employees released

The group said the pull-out will cut off hundreds of thousands of Somali civilians from humanitarian aid. "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, MSF's international president.

Dr. Unni Karunakara ist der internationale Präsident der Orgaisation Medecins sans Frontières (MSF), Ärzte ohne Grenzen 2010. Die Organisation setzt sich dafür ein, dass Entwicklungsländer weiterhin Zugang zu Generika und billigen Medikamente zur Behandlung von AIDS haben. Ein Freihandelsabkommen zwischen der EU und Indien könnte den Zugang zu den Medikamenten erschweren, da ein grosser Teil der Medikamente in Indien produziert werden // Foto:Medecins sans Frontières (MSF/Ärtze ohne Grenzen)

Unni Karunakara is critical of civilian authorities that tolerate armed groups

MSF said more 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.

Hussein Awes, a correspondent for Deutsche Welle's Kiswahili service in the Somalian capital Mogadishu, said "people would not be getting the service they had had before."

The pull-out comes about a month after the release of two Spanish MSF employees who were abducted in the Kenyan Dadaab refugee camp near the border and held in Somalia for almost two years.

"Exactly what al-Shabab and al-Qaida wanted"

MSF's decision has been criticised by the Somalian authorities. Abdirahman Omar Osman, a spokesman for the Somalian presidency, warned that the move by the charity could embolden the al-Qaida linked militants. "The decision from MSF is exactly what al-Shabaab and al-Qaida wanted, so that they can terrorize people further. We kindly ask MSF to review its decision and to be with the people," said Osman.

Suldano Osman, 1, is held by her mother and a hospital worker as a pediatrician attaches a feeding tube to aid in her treatment for malnutrition, at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Dagahaley Camp, outside Dadaab, Kenya, Monday, July 11, 2011. U.N. refugee chief Antonio Guterres said Sunday that drought-ridden Somalia is the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, after meeting with refugees who endured unspeakable hardship to reach the world's largest refugee camp in Dadaab, Kenya. (Foto:Rebecca Blackwell/AP/dapd)

A refugee baby being treated at an MSF hospital outside the Kenyan Dadaab camp near the Somali border

This nation in the Horn of Africa has been seen as making strides in security and governance. Somalia fell into anarchy in 1991 and for much of the last decade Mogadishu was ruled by warlords and al-Qaida-aligned militants. Those militants from al-Shabab were forced out of the capital in 2011 and a new government was voted into place. The security gains brought new measures of freedom to the capital. But violence persists. Some two dozen local journalists have been killed since the start of 2012.

More than 7,000 babies delivered

Humanitarian needs in Somalia created unparalleled levels of risk for MSF, much of it born by Somali staff, the aid group said, forcing it to "take the exceptional measure of utilizing armed guards, which it does not do in any other country, and to tolerate extreme limits on its ability to independently assess and respond to the needs of the population."

Somali government soldiers stand at the scene of a suicide bomb attack outside the United Nations compound in the capital Mogadishu, June 19, 2013. A suicide bomber and several gunmen attacked a United Nations compound in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday, police and witnesses said, in a strike that bore the hallmarks of al Qaeda-linked militants. REUTERS/Ismail Taxta (SOMALIA - Tags: SOCIETY CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW MILITARY)

The UN compound in Mogadishu was the target of an attack in June

Al-Shabab still controls much of the country's south. The group allows very few outside aid groups to operate in its territory. MSF will close programs in Mogadishu and 10 other locations. The group said it provided more than 624,000 medical consultations, admitted 41,000 patients to hospitals, cared for more than 30,000 malnourished children and delivered more than 7,000 babies in 2012 alone.

Dr. Abiy Tamrat, is the president of Doctors Without Borders, Switzerland, which has been involved in projects in Somalia. Asked by Deutsche Welle's Africalink radio program what would happen to the projects MSF was leaving behind, he said they would try to arrange proper hand-overs with local authorities and other actors whenever possible. "The only problem here is that some of our projects, located in various rural parts of the country, are the only projects that provide medical care and there is no way of providing hand-over. They will be closed leaving the population of Somalia without any kind of assistance," he said.

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