Chad: Staff member safely released

A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff member, who went missing following an armed robbery at the MSF compound in Adé in the east of Chad, has been safely released. The international staff member was set free unharmed following 29 days in captivity at an unknown location, held by an unidentified armed group. "We are incredibly relieved that our colleague is safe and in good health and spirit", said Hans van de Weerd, General Director of MSF-Holland. MSF wishes to express its gratitude for the extraordinary support it received from local administrative and tribal leaders and for their tireless efforts to negotiate the unconditional release of our staff member. Initially, two staff members were reported missing following the robbery, which took place in the early hours of the morning on August 4, 2009. While our Chadian colleague returned safely on Friday, August 7, the international staff member remained missing until today. "MSF is outraged that the wellbeing of our staff was put at risk and that family, friends and colleagues have been forced to endure so much anxiety", continues Van de Weerd. "Our staff work hard to deliver free healthcare to people in need of assistance and the unacceptable targeting of medical staff and activities jeopardizes this care." Whilst MSF continues to deliver healthcare in Chad, as a result of the incident, the organisation was forced to suspend activities in two projects in the east of the country, in Adé and Kerfi, and a number of international staff members returned home. "It is sad and frustrating to have to stop providing care in a place where the needs are high. However, the safety of our staff is paramount and our independent medical work must be respected if we are to continue working in conflict areas to save the lives of those who suffer the most", concluded Van de Weerd. Our focus is now on reuniting the returned staff member with his family and friends. At this stage MSF will not comment any further on the situation in order to allow our colleague the space and privacy necessary during this emotional time.