UN food agency suspends relief operations in South Sudan

UN food agency suspends relief operations in South Sudan

South Sudan is one of the most dangerous places for aid workers

By Benjamin Takpiny

JUBA, South Sudan (AA) - The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has suspended relief operations in South Sudan due to a recent armed attack on humanitarian workers.

"Following the latest attack, the World Food Programme has been forced to temporarily pause its convoy movements out of Bor, Jonglei State for the second time in as many weeks to re-assess mitigation measures," the WFP said in a statement.

"This corridor is critical for our food prepositioning ahead of the rainy season when roads are inaccessible and more than one million people in Jonglei and Pibor rely on the humanitarian food assistance that we transport along this route,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan.

She said the safety and security of staff and contractors is paramount, and when incidents like this occur, it is women, men and children in desperate need of assistance who suffer the most.

South Sudan is one of the most dangerous places for aid workers, with nine humanitarian workers killed in the line of duty and 418 incidents reported in 2022.

Before this incident, since the beginning of the year, three aid workers were killed while on duty providing critical services to the most vulnerable affected by the protracted humanitarian situation.

In 2023, an estimated 9.4 million people in South Sudan are projected to need humanitarian assistance or protection services. The humanitarian situation is worsened by endemic violence, access constraints, operational interference, public health challenges and climate shocks such as flooding and localized droughts.

“While humanitarians continue to work tirelessly to provide the much-needed vital support, the continuation of violent attacks inadvertently hampers their efforts. We call on the authorities to take urgent action to improve security, to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and commodities and bring perpetrators to justice,” said Meshack Malo, the Acting Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.

The humanitarian community in South Sudan strongly condemns a targeted attack on humanitarian assets and staff in Jonglei state in which two people were killed and others seriously injured.

On March 17, a humanitarian convoy of more than 100 trucks transporting food and other humanitarian assistance came under attack. Two contracted drivers were shot in the attack, one fatally. Another person died in a road traffic accident as a direct result of the incident. A humanitarian staff was also injured and is currently receiving treatment. This is the latest in a series of escalating incidents targeting humanitarian convoys and workers.

There were more than 20 violent incidents against humanitarian staff and assets in January alone, more than double that in January 2022.

“The humanitarian community is appalled by the continued attacks targeting humanitarians and their assets. These recurring acts of violence disrupt the delivery of life-saving assistance and must end,” said Malo.

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