MSF staff missing in Liberia now safe in Guinea
14 August 2000
More details are now getting out regarding the MSF staff who were missing in Liberia recently. They were released last night along with the four other humaniatarian aid workers taken at the same time. In total there were two MSF staff, three from Merlin and one from IRC. Another 10 local staff were taken as well. The two MSF members are nurse Irene Martino, Italian, 34, who has previously worked in South Sudan. The second is logistician Trond Heldaas. He is Norwegian, 53, and has been working in Somalia. In Liberia, they had been working in a project for Sierra-Leonese refugees providing health care and water and sanitation. They were supporting a hospital providing emergency assistance in Voinjama When they were brought to the Liberia-Guinea border, they met up with 80 additional humanitarian aid workers who were local staff of other organisations. They crossed the border together and the local staff were placed under the care of the UNHCR. The six ex-pats remain with MSF. Two MSF doctors were at the border to greet the MSF people. They were taken to Macenta in Guinea for the night. Today they are travelling by car to Kisidougou and then shall be flying to the capital, Conakry. Once safe in Conakry, the two will receive an emotional debriefing from staff specifically trained in the subject. According to reports now getting back, the MSF staff were taken by an armed group when fighting broke out in the neighbourhood in Kolahun, northwest Liberia, where the MSF were staying. They were not taken hostage as much as the armed group took them for the worker`s protection. When matters settled, and it was safe for all parties to move, the humanitarian workers were taken to the border at Guinea and they walked across to the MSF people in Guinea waiting for them. "We are delighted that our colleagues are safe and sound," said Amanda Harvey, MSF Head of Mission in Liberia. "Apparently they have been treated correctly. Hovever we are still concerned about the situation of the population in the northwest region of Liberia where there is still much tension and insecurities". Amanda is travelling to Conakry today to meet her staff members when they arrive. MSF still has eight people working in Monrovia and in the southern part of Liberia. They are continuing the programmes in the country.