Sixty-three-year-old Peruvian doctor Juan Ortiz-Iruri was one of the dozens of people killed at a massacre that took place over the weekend at a Kenyan shopping mall.
The former tropical disease specialist for UNICEF and the World Bank resided in Africa and had been living in Kenya for the past two years. Prior to Ortiz-Iruri’s retirement, he had been working in maternal and childcare and development in Kenya with the aim of helping the country reach its Millennium Development Goals.
Ortiz-Iruri was days away from travelling to the England in order to take a full-time post as senior technical advisor at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine’s Centre for Maternal Health (CMNH).
“All at CMNH have been affected by Juan’s death under such shocking circumstances. He had dedicated his professional life to improving health systems in Africa and Asia, particularly in the area of maternal, child and newborn health,” said CMNH head Professor Nynke van den Broek.
“Juan had worked with us on a range of maternal and new-born health programs for some time from his base in Nairobi and we were all looking forward to welcoming him as a full time member of staff in Liverpool later this week,” van den Broek added in remarks to the Liverpool Echo.
Two of Ortiz-Iruri’s sons have travelled to Nairobi in order to collect the body of their father and the family hopes to bury the corpse in his native Cusco. This may be a challenge, however, since Peru does not have an embassy or consulate in Kenya.
The official death toll of the massacre supposedly perpetrated by the al-Shabab movement, a Somalia-based group allied with Al-Qaeda, is 62. That number could rise as Kenyan security forces attempt to secure the mall and end a three-day hostage siege.
“We have taken control of all the floors… We can confirm that three terrorists have been killed so far, a few others have suffered injuries” Kenyan police said via an official Twitter account.
Several survivors of the attack described their ordeals via social media including a series of harrowing Tweets from one woman:
On Twitter, a woman who identified herself as Shirley wrote that she ran into the mall, not away, when she first heard shots fired. She described hiding under mattresses and wrote: “This might be my last tweet.”
In a harrowing series of posts, she seemed to be struggling to make peace with her own impending death.
"I don't care anymore. If they shoot let them come shoot.It doesn't even seem like we'll make it out anyway #Westgate"
Then, later: “I feel like I’m ready for anything now. All the fear is gone #Westgate”
Then: “No, I dont wanna die this young! :'(. #Westgate”
After she made it out alive, she wrote of seeing a police officer shot in the hip as he tried to lead her and others upstairs. Some people fell down the stairs and played dead, she wrote.Video Source– YouTube via user BuenosDiasPeruPTV
Online Sources – The Epoch Times; Trome; The Liverpool Echo; ABC News; NBC News