The United Nations on Monday condemned a targeted attack on humanitarian assets and staff in South Sudan’s Jonglei State that left two people dead and several others injured.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the incident happened on March 17 when a humanitarian convoy of more than 100 trucks transporting food and other humanitarian assistance came under attack in which two contracted drivers were shot, one fatally, and another person died in a road accident as a direct result of the incident that also led to the injury of a humanitarian worker.
“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 what it was in January 2022,” the OCHA said in a statement issued in Juba, South Sudan’s capital.
Meshack Malo, acting humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, said attacks targeting humanitarian convoys disrupt humanitarian aid delivery to vulnerable people and called on authorities to provide security for humanitarian workers.
“While humanitarians work tirelessly to provide the much-needed vital support, the continuation of violent attacks inadvertently hampers their efforts,” he said. “We call on the authorities to take urgent action to improve security, to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and commodities, and bring perpetrators to justice.”
Mary-Ellen McGroarty, country director for the UN World Food Program (WFP) in South Sudan, said WFP convoy movement out of Bor, Jonglei State, had to be temporarily suspended for the second time in as many weeks, to re-assess mitigation measures following the attack.
“This corridor is critical for our food prepositioning ahead of the rainy season when roads are inaccessible and more than 1 million people in Jonglei and Pibor rely on the humanitarian food assistance that we transport along this route,” she said. “The safety and security of staff and contractors are paramount and when incidents like this occur it is women, men, and children in desperate need of assistance who suffer the most.”
The OCHA said 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.
Earlier this year, three aid workers were killed while on duty providing critical services to the most vulnerable affected by the protracted humanitarian situation in South Sudan.
An estimated 9.4 million people in South Sudan are projected to need humanitarian assistance or protection services in 2023.
Endemic violence, access constraints, operational interference, public health challenges, and climate shocks such as flooding and localized drought worsen the humanitarian situation.