The United Nations and its partner aid agencies have scaled back operations in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya following the abduction of two Spanish aid workers from the international medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres.
All non-lifesaving aid operations, including counseling and education services, in the camp have been suspended temporarily and hundreds of international aid workers were instructed to remain in their offices, according to The Associated Press.
“Only water, food and health services are being maintained,” said Needa Jehu-Hoyah, spokesperson of the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, as quoted by the news agency.
The suspension of other services and ban on non-essential staff movement will be in place until further notice, Jehu-Hoyah said, adding that the United Nations is working with Kenyan authorities to improve security in and around Dadaab.
Meanwhile, refugees staying in the camp are concerned the suspended services will be halted permanently because of the kidnapping.
“People are sad and mournful,” Mohamud Jama Guled, a refugee community leader, told The Associated Press. “They have gone to the [MSF] hospital but it is not opening … They hope these two ladies will come back. Anyone who takes these humanitarians, they are wrong. They are wrong forever. These people are helping those who are suffering.”
Kenyan authorities engaged in the search and rescue operation to recover the two MSF staff said they have found the aid workers’ vehicle abandoned in the desert heading to Somalia.
The Kenyan government also announced it is sending forces into Somalia to pursue the two aid workers’ kidnappers, who are largely suspected to be members of the al-Shabab militant group. This is the first time the country is sending troops directly into Somalia, having previously been kept out of direct engagement with al-Shabab in the past years.
Meanwhile, Juan Antonio Bastos, the director of MSF in Spain, has identified the two kidnapped aid workers as Montserrat Serra i Ridao and Blanca Thiebaut. Bastos also pleaded for discretion from the media, adding that MSF has not heard of any news about its two staff members so far.
The two aid workers were taken by armed men from an extension area of the Dadaab refugee camp. The kidnappers shot and injured the two aid workers’ Kenyan driver. There are some reports that two other Kenyans were taken along with the Spanish aid workers.
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