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Philippines: ICRC worried about abducted colleagues and anxiety of their families

26-02-2009 Interview

Thursday 26 February marks one and a half months since ICRC staff members Mary Jean Lacaba, Eugenio Vagni and Andreas Notter were abducted in the southern Philippines. The ICRC's head of operations for East Asia, South-East Asia and the Pacific, Alain Aeschlimann, discusses the latest developments.

   

   
 
  Alain Aeschlimann    
     

 Have you received any news from your colleagues recently? Can you confirm what is being said about the deteriorating health of Mary Jean and Eugenio?  

The three of them made contact with the ICRC and their families a week ago. Since then, we have not had any direct contact with them. In two media intervi ews, Mary Jean and Andreas said they were feeling weaker and having some health problems. It's hard to confirm what is being reported by the media, but we are concerned about their health and about the fatigue and stress they are suffering.

 Do you have any clue as to their current location?  

It is very difficult to know precisely where they are. There is a lot of speculation about that. All we can say at this stage is that we know they have been on the move over recent days and that they have had to walk in very difficult conditions, through the jungle and often in the rain. All of this has apparently weakened them.

 Have you managed to send them medicines or personal items?  

We know from reliable sources that they received fresh supplies of medicines that we sent them.

 How are the families coping with this terrible situation?  

I was recently in the Philippines and I personally visited Mary Jean's family and spent some time with them. The families of both Andreas and Eugenio came to ICRC headquarters in Geneva on 24 February to be updated on the situation and share their pain with the members of our crisis cell.

Meeting the families of Mary Jean, Andreas and Eugenio was very moving for me. They are suffering horribly and my heart goes out to them. Having a child myself, I was particularly touched to see the children of our colleagues asking about their abducted parents. One child is my son's age and can hardly sleep. My colleagues and I did our best to comfort the families, and we're doing everything we can to give them the support they need. We hope that this crisis will be over soon and that Mary Jean, Andreas an d Eugenio will be able to return home safe and sound.

 What is your message to the captors?  

We appeal to the abductors'sense of humanity. We reiterate our call for the swift and unconditional release of Mary Jean, Eugenio and Andreas.