Ten aid workers missing in Yei
(FILE PHOTO): Members of Action Against Hunger’s emergency nutrition team in South Sudan: It is the world’s most violent context for aid workers. Photo: Guy Calaf and Lys Arango for Action Against Hunger.
By Jale Richard
Ten aid workers have gone missing outside South Sudan’s Yei town in Central Equatoria region, the United Nations said yesterday.
It is a blow to the work of aid workers in fight against hunger given attacks against aid workers have increased in recent weeks. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Tuesday said it had suspended operations in South Sudan’s Leer County after its compound came under attack earlier this month.
The peace monitoring body JMEC yesterday said famine still remains a threat to the country despite efforts by aid agencies o scale up their efforts in prone areas.
The convoy of the aid workers was en route to Tore from Yei town, early on 25th April to conduct a humanitarian needs assessment. Their whereabouts and well-being are unknown according to the UN.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, Alain Noudehou demanded their immediate return.
“We are deeply concerned about the whereabouts of these humanitarian workers and are urgently seeking information about their well-being,” said Mr. Noudehou. “These individuals, UN and NGO staff, are here to help the people of South Sudan and should not be targeted. Our colleagues must be released without condition so that their work can continue.”
The ten South Sudanese national nationals included one from UNOCHA, two from UNICEF, one from the South Sudanese Development Organisation, (SSDO), two from ACROSS, three from Plan International and one from Action Africa Help (AAH).
“I firmly condemn the latest attack against colleagues engaged in emergency humanitarian assistance in Central Equatoria and call on all parties to the conflict in South Sudan to ensure a safe and secure environment, conducive to the delivery of assistance,” said Mr. Noudehou.
This is the second incident involving aid workers being held by armed groups in April alone, and the third in six months.
This month, rebels of former First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar released seven aid workers they had detained in March in Morobo County of Yei River State.
In March alone, 70 humanitarian access incidents were reported, of which over 60 per cent (42) involved violence according to the UN.
A civil war that began in December 2013 in the East African country has claimed tens of thousands of lives, put some areas at risk of famine and spurred the continent’s largest refugee crisis.
The UN statement Thursday described the disappearances as the second incident involving aid workers being held by armed groups in April, and the third in six months. It didn’t give further details.