Category Archives: Darfur

Laura Archer-What An Angel Heart Looks Like

Laura Archer viewed her life in Africa as an eye opening experience when interviewed last August by the Montreal Gazette. She may be free tonight after being a hostage for two days in Darfur where the nurse works with Doctors Without Borders.
Laura Archer, 31, and two other foreign workers were taken by gunpoint on Wednesday at a North Darfur medical clinic.

In an interview last summer with Enterprise magazine she revealed that a horrible car crash on Highway I-40 from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2002 was her wake-up call. She decided that she wanted her life to mean something.

She decided in 2004 that she wanted to learn about the world outside North America. She sold all of her things and bought a backpack boarding a plane. She was in Thailand when the tsunami struck. Seeing the little that was being done she flew to India and set up a make shift clinic on a beach near a village that has been hard hit by the tsunami. She lived there for three weeks.

She had found her calling.

The Toronto Star reports:

“Through this experience,” she wrote in the alumni magazine article, “the difference between being a tourist and a humanitarian became apparent to me – and I knew which I wanted to be.”

In 2005 Archer returned to Canada to apply to Doctors Without Borders and has never looked back.

Archer has worked in two other African locations in the Central African Republic and in Chad. Both nations take in thousands of refugees from the Darfur region. This is her fourth African mission in three years.

The National Post quotes the young nurse:

“People have asked me if my experiences in Africa have made me more cynical or perhaps jaded,” she said. “I don’t think so. I guess I’ve lost my rose-coloured glasses and now things — both positive and negative – are a bit more clear.”

When she’s at home Archer paints. Last August she was promoting an exhibit of her worked titled Facing Africa. She had 26 portraits of displaced people that she had painted while on the continent. She uses her art to tell the stories of those she encounters; child soldiers stung out on cocaine, pregnant women picking berries to survive.

Archer’s father in Charlottetown said he was still in shock that his daughter was kidnapped. Her boyfriend Carlos Beranquez was also stunned by the news that his girlfriend who has been in Darfur since October 2008 was taken.

Saraf Omra where the Doctors Without Borders clinic is located is one of the most dangerous areas of Darfur.

“She is well versed in the region,” said McHarg, who has herself worked as a nurse in Sudan. “She was working with Sudanese staff to provide basic health care . . . The needs are just amazing and when you’re there, doing the work, it’s so important. The people you meet are so lovely and knowing that such good people are facing such tragedy . . . I think our teams are really dedicated.”

The charity has faced other kidnappings in the past. They have all ended with success for the staff of the group.

Archer is due back to Canada in April.

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs has been seeking confirmation that Archer and the others are free.

CBC reports:

“Canadian officials are in close contact with Médecins Sans Frontières, the UN, and Sudanese officials,” spokesman Daniel Barbarie said in an email, according to the Canadian Press. “We stand ready to provide consular assistance and support.”

The workers have reportedly been rescued yet the charity has yet to speak to them.

CBC also quotes with a spokesperson with Doctors Without Borders:

“We have not yet seen our colleagues, nor have we had the chance to speak with them since we heard that they were being released,” said spokeswoman Naomi Sutorius-Lavoie.

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Doctors Without Borders Hostages Have Been Rescued

Three foreign workers for Doctors Without Borders are safe after two days of being hostages. The Italian Foreign Ministry has yet to talk to any of the hostages.
Deseret News reports that official word has come from the kidnappers and the Sudanese authorities that the three hostages are free and unharmed. A Sudanese staffer was also with the foreign workers when they were released.

No further details are being provided from the Sudanese Foreign Ministry.

The ministry asked for a news blackout on the kidnapping on Friday while the officials worked on their release.

While it is not known who the kidnappers are on Thursday North Darfur’s governor said they were bandits looking for a cash ransom.

More news will follow as it becomes available.


Ransom Demanded For Doctors Without Border Hostages

The kidnappers of three employees of Doctors Without Borders has demanded a ransom for their return. The hostages have been on the phone with authorities, confirming that they are alive. The kidnappers have stated they do not want to harm the aid workers.
News 24 reports that North Darfur governor Osman Kebir has spoken to both the kidnappers and the hostages by telephone.

“Negotiations with the abductors are progressing well and could result in the release of the victims soon”, Kebir said according to the reports.

According to Kebir the kidnappers are not interested in harming the aid workers.

One of those being held is Canadian nurse, Laura Archer. Ms. Archer is from Prince Edward Island. She now lives in Montreal.

The other hostages are Italian doctor Mauro D’Ascanio and French field coordinator Raphael Meunier.

This is the first abduction of Westerns in the region.

The Toronto Star reports:

“We can confirm that a group of armed men went to the location and ordered five persons to follow them. They were three international staff and two national staff,” said Kemal Saiki, communications director for UNAMID peacekeepers in Darfur. UNAMID said the kidnapping took place late yesterday.

The workers were taken from a clinic in Saraf Omra. The health clinic and dispensary serving tens of thousands of people and is run by MSF Belgium.

The Star quotes Susan Sandars, an MSF spokeswoman in Nairobi, Kenya.

“We have managed to have a contact with the staff themselves,” said McHarg. “They were given a phone to use (Wednesday) night… We did get confirmation that they were OK, they were in good health, that they were together and that they were being well-treated.”

Doctors Without Borders is still concerned for their safety, McHarg said.

“Our concern as well is for the families and what they’re going through, and of course what it will eventually mean for the populations and the people that we’ve been there to try and help,” she said.

The kidnapping is liable to change the policies of aid workers in the Darfur region. Already Sudan’s President Al-Bashir has ordered 13 aid groups out of his country last week because of an international warrant was issued for him. The president has been charged with war crimes that are the root of at least 200,000 people being killed in Darfur since 2003.

MSF Belgium was not among the aid groups that were expelled.


Five Doctors Without Borders Workers Kidnapped In Darfur

Five people from Doctor’s Without Borders were kidnapped from the Darfur region of Sudan on Wednesday. The kidnapping comes a week after President al-Bashir expelled aid groups in response to the ICC’s issuing of an arrest warrant.
A spokesperson for U.N. peacekeepers said that the kidnapping took place in north Darfur, about 125 miles west of al-Fasher. They and one Sudanese worker were taken from their office on Wednesday. The Sudanese worker was later released.

The Italian branch of Doctors Without Borders said that one Italian national, one French national and one Canadian national were among those taken. It is said that two Sudanese national were immediately released. The discrepancy in the numbers has not been explained.

The 13 aid groups that were expelled were told to leave Darfur by March 5. Doctors Without Borders had already pulled out its Dutch and French operations in Darfur but the Swiss and Spanish branches of the aid group are still offering care in the region.