South Sudanese combatants target aid workers
South Sudan | Seven killed in most recent ambush on a humanitarian convoy
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 3/27/17, 12:47 pm
Attackers on Saturday ambushed and killed six aid workers and a driver from a South Sudanese nonprofit, the United Nations mission in the country said. The attack comes as famine affects some 100,000 South Sudanese and leaves another 1 million at risk.
The dead included four Sudanese nationals and three Kenyans who worked with the Grass Roots Empowerment for Development Organization. The group was traveling in a convoy to the eastern town of Pibor from the capital, Juba, when the attack occurred. Other members at the back of the convoy found their bodies by the roadside, the UN said. It was the highest number of aid workers killed in a single attack since the country fell into chaos.
“This cold-blooded killing is utterly reprehensible, not least because these aid workers were dedicated to alleviating the ongoing suffering of the people of South Sudan,” said David Shearer, the UN mission representative in the country.
South Sudan’s conflict began in 2013 when a civil war broke out between supporters of President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar. The crisis has killed tens of thousands of people and displaced more than 2 million others.
So far, 79 aid workers have died in the conflict, according to the UN. At least 12 of the casualties happened this year. Earlier this month, some attackers killed a health worker and a patient in a humanitarian convoy responding to a cholera outbreak in central South Sudan.
“These attacks … not only put the lives of aid workers at risk, they also threaten the lives of thousands of South Sudanese who rely on our assistance for their survival,” said Eugene Owusu, South Sudan’s humanitarian coordinator. The war-torn nation is one of four countries the UN designated as at risk of severe food shortage. Two towns in the country’s Unity State already have declared famine.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres last week called on the South Sudanese government to do more to help its people. Aid workers said two famine-stricken towns had been blocked off from aid due to the conflict.
“I implore all those in positions of power to step up to their responsibilities and stop this as they are ultimately accountable for what happens under their watch,” Owusu said. “There is no safety when attacks are met with silence and inaction.”
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.