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Among The Nairobi Dead: Harvard Humanitarian, Expectant Mother

This article is more than 6 years old.

The violent siege and hostage crisis at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, is reported to be over after a four-day standoff between the Kenyan government and the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab.

In its wake, more than 170 people were injured and 62 were killed.

This undated photo shows Ross Langdon and his partner Elif Yavuz in Australia. Regional Associates, an architecture and research consultancy, identified the two as the victims of the terrorist attack on Kenya’s shopping mall on Saturday. (AAP Image/AP)
This undated photo shows Ross Langdon and his partner Elif Yavuz in Australia. Regional Associates, an architecture and research consultancy, identified the two as the victims of the terrorist attack on Kenya’s shopping mall on Saturday. (AAP Image/AP)

Among the deceased is Elif Yavuz, 33, a native of the Netherlands and a 2013 graduate from the Harvard School of Public Health. She was visiting Nairobi to deliver her first child, due in early October. Her husband was also killed in the attacks.

While working towards her degree, Yavuz conducted extensive research on malaria in eastern Africa and was heavily involved in public health advocacy. She accepted a job with the Clinton Health Access Initiative after graduating.

The Dean of the Faculty at HSPH, Dr. Julio Frenk, released a statement to the Harvard community yesterday:

I am extremely saddened to let you know that Elif Yavuz, ScD, a 2013 graduate of our Department of Global Health and Population, was among the victims of this weekend’s senseless violence at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. As an HSPH doctoral student, Elif completed her dissertation research on malaria in eastern Africa. Elif was Dutch, and had lived and worked abroad for many years, both in Africa and in Asia. She was currently working with the Applied Analytics Team at the Clinton Health Access Initiative and preparing her thesis for publication.
Elif and her partner, who was also a victim in the attack, were expecting their first child in early October.

As one of her colleagues here at HSPH said: “Elif brought laugher and love wherever she went. She lightened the lives of her HSPH colleagues and of the children she lived with in Uganda during her thesis work.”

Elif committed her career and her life to helping those in need. Her compassion was an inspiration to everyone she touched at HSPH and the broader global community in which she lived and worked. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.
I know you join me in expressing heartfelt condolences to Elif’s family and to the GHP department’s faculty, staff, and students as they cope with this terrible loss.

The Harvard Gazette also covered Yavuz’s slaughter, including part of a statement released by HSPH students and alumni:

“Elif made life richer for us all,” said the statement by Shahira Ahmed, Emily Harrison, Heather Lanthorn, Corrina Moucheraud, and Pamela Scorza. “Her intelligence, spark, and wit, coupled with her unending hopefulness and enthusiasm, brightened our lives. She was a friend, laughter therapist, vegetarian cook, yogi, novel reader, wine- and tea-drinking companion, scientist, public health malaria specialist, adventurer, mother-to-be. She remains in our hearts and memories, and we will deeply miss her.”

Last night, the Harvard African Student Association hosted a vigil for members of the Harvard community mourning the loss of friends and family in the shootings. HASA is spearheading a video testimony-based media campaign, “Harvard for Kenya,” to raise awareness of the tragedy and facilitate Kenya’s recovery.

This program aired on September 24, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.

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