Peace Corps Suspends Program in Guinea-Bissau; All Volunteers Evacuated Safely
June 13, 1998Washington, D.C., June 13, 1998—Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan announced today that the Peace Corps has suspended its program in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. Volunteers and staff were evacuated by land, air and sea this week 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 fighting in the capital between rebel soldiers and government troops. All 34 Peace Corps volunteers and Peace Corps staff who were serving in Guinea-Bissau are now in Dakar, Senegal, or en route there. About 14 of the volunteers were to complete their service soon, and will return to the United States. The others will be given the option of transferring to Peace Corps programs in different countries or coming home. Last week, the 49 Peace Corps volunteers serving in Eritrea in East Africa were evacuated in the wake of escalating tensions and fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Peace Corps volunteers serving in Ethiopia have been largely unaffected, but have been withdrawn from border areas as a precautionary measure. "The Peace Corps is committed to ensuring the health and safety of our volunteers, " said Gearan. "And while these decisions are necessary in light of the circumstances in Guinea-Bissau and Eritrea, we hope that future circumstances permit our return to both countries." Currently, about 6,500 Peace Corps volunteers are working in 81 countries to help fight hunger, bring clean water to communities, teach children, protect the environment, help start new businesses, and prevent the spread of AIDS. Since 1961, more than 150,000 Americans have joined the Peace Corps.