MSF staff escapes in Congo

    A Médecins Sans Frontières-marked vehicle in Kabizo, North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. One of the four kidnapped MSF aid workers was able to escape her captors on Aug. 29. Photo by: Roberto De Vido / CC BY-NC-ND

    After more than a year in captivity, a kidnapped staff member of Médecins Sans Frontières was able to escape her captors on Aug. 29.

    But three of her colleagues remain missing.

    Chantal Kaghoma Vulinzole, a nurse who was part of MSF's emergency team in the city of Beni in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo was found Friday by Congolese armed forces currently dealing with rebel group Allied Democratic Forces/National Army for the Liberation of Uganda.

    She is "unharmed" although "weak and thin," according to the medical group.

    Vulinzole was taken July 11, 2013, while on mission in Beni, along with three other colleagues named Philippe, Richard and Romy. But Chantal was separated from them prior to her escape, and MSF is still working to learn of their whereabouts.

    "Over time, a series of doors has opened and closed but we have been unable to obtain proof of life or direct access to those holding our colleagues," Benoît Leduc, the organization's crisis cell coordinator, said in a statement. 

    “People are willing to help us, but each time we seem to be close, our contacts report a last-minute obstacle or the people who might have the power to free the hostages do an about-face," Leduc added.

    MSF is asking for help from anyone with information about the other three staff members. It is also calling on their captors for their immediate release.

    The kidnapping last year was preceded by several attacks against the international group and its staff. In 2012, the organization suspended some of its activities in the region after two of its staff members — a nurse and a logistician — were abducted in the town of Masisi, also in North Kivu. A few months before that, armed men attacked MSF's residential compound, wounding one staff member.

    Read more development aid news online, and subscribe to The Development Newswire to receive top international development headlines from the world’s leading donors, news sources and opinion leaders — emailed to you FREE every business day.

    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.

    Join the Discussion