FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, June 5, 1998
Peace Corps Suspends Program in Eritrea; All Volunteers are Safe and Sound
Washington, D.C., June 5, 1998—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan announced today that the Peace Corps has suspended its program in Eritrea. Volunteers and staff were evacuated from Eritrea this afternoon along with the staff and dependents of the U.S. personnel stationed in the country. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of State issued an ordered departure declaration as the result of escalating tensions and fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
All 49 Peace Corps volunteers who were serving in Eritrea and Peace Corps staff were brought to the capital, Asmara, earlier this week as a precaution. They were transported out of the country on Friday afternoon and are on their way to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Bucharest, Romania, where they will be given the option of transferring to Peace Corps programs in other countries. About 14 of the volunteers were to complete their service in Eritrea this month and will return to the United States.
"Peace Corps has a long-standing commitment to ensure the health and safety of our volunteers, " said Gearan. "And while this decision is necessary in light of the circumstances in Eritrea, we reached the decision with regret and hope that future circumstances permit our return."
Peace Corps volunteers serving in Ethiopia have been largely unaffected, but have been withdrawn from border areas as a precautionary measure.
Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 82 countries to help fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, start new businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.
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