15 April 2019, Wellington (New Zealand Red Cross) – It has been confirmed that a New Zealander working with the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was abducted on 13 October 2013 in Syria and remains missing.
Louisa Akavi was taken, along with six others, while delivering supplies to medical facilities in Idlib governate,
north-western Syria. Four of the abductees were released the next day, but Louisa’s fate, and that of her two Syrian
ICRC colleagues, remains unknown.
“Louisa is a valued member of the Red Cross whānau. She is highly skilled, compassionate and resilient. A friend, a
colleague and a mentor,” says Niamh Lawless, New Zealand Red Cross Secretary General.
“She has dedicated her life to those affected by war and violence, and she went to Syria because people needed her. She
wanted to use her skills to make a difference for some of the world’s most vulnerable people.”
An experienced nurse and midwife, Ms Akavi has been working with the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement since 1987 when she
was deployed to Malaysia to help Vietnamese refugees. Syria was her 17th field mission.
“Every decision we have made since Louisa was kidnapped has been in the interests of securing her freedom,” Ms Lawless
says. “Since 2013 we have been providing support to her family, while working alongside the ICRC and the New Zealand
Government to locate her and bring her home safely.”
Ms Lawless says the wellbeing of Ms Akavi and her family remains New Zealand Red Cross’ first priority.
“Louisa’s family is used to her being overseas for her job, however, this has been an extremely stressful and worrying
situation for them. We ask the media and the public to respect their privacy and the difficult times they are going
“We remain deeply concerned about Louisa’s safety, health and wellbeing, however, we retain a sense of hope she will be
reunited with her family, her friends and workmates. We call on whoever is holding Louisa to release her immediately and