Rome (Fides Service) – Following the murder of the Italian voluntary health worker in Somalia, other Nansen Award winners have launched an appeal for more protection for humanitarian workers. In June 2003 Dr Tonelli received the Nansen Award for her service to the most needy.
Here is the letter:
“On Sunday 5 October humanitarian worker Annalena Tonelli was shot dead by unidentified assassins in front of the hospital for tuberculosis patients in Borama, Somalia, which she herself opened. Dr Tonelli was murdered only a few months after receiving the Nansen Refugee Award, named after Fridtjof Nansen Norwegian explorer and first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights UNHCR. The Award is assigned every year by the UNHCR to persons or organisations for special contributions to the cause of refugees.
We the signers of this letter feel deeply united with Annalena Tonelli like her we too received this award. There is no need to repeat here that the murder of a humanitarian worker is an atrocious and cowardly act but in this particular case it appears unbelievably brutal and senseless. Nevertheless although a tragedy, Annalena Tonelli’s murder does bring to light selfless service of volunteers in Somaliland, all Africa and all over the world. We feel it is our duty once again to appeal to politicians, world leaders, military leaders, individuals all over the world, to take steps to protect people committed to helping others. We reiterate the call to governments to pursue and punish crimes against humanitarian workers which can be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity. Disregard for human life in general and in particular disregard for the life of humanitarian workers makes less people inclined to dedicate themselves to voluntary service in the most dangerous parts of the world. Ever longer is the list of zones almost inaccessible to humanitarian workers where the high risks for safety outweigh any possible benefit. We are not saying that humanitarian work can be ever risk-free but it must be safe within the limits of reason or else the number of humanitarian workers will be ever smaller and the people they help ever more numerous and more needy.” LM (Fides Service 15/10/2003 EM lines 38 Words: 485)