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Humanitarian Day: Tearfund reflects on ‘tragic’ 12 months for aid workers

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Tearfund Hygiene Promoters in South Sudan.

Credit|Tearfund

The Country Director of Tearfund in South Sudan has called for a safe and conducive environment for aid workers in the country.

Rama Anthony described as ‘tragic’ the escalation of violence against humanitarians in recent months.

“…lives have been lost. Lives of people who were doing their best to make sure that the people who are in need receive the services that they do deserve,” he lamented.

The first quarter of 2021 has been characterized by harassment, assaults, and killings of aid workers while on the line of duty.

According to reports filed by Eye Radio, at least 7 humanitarians have been killed in South Sudan this year.

These incidents have been reported in Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Unity, and Lakes States, including Pibor and Ruweng Administrative Areas.

“I think we all aspire for that environment that everybody can walk around and live in safety, live a dignified life,” Mr. Rama said.

Tearfund’s appeal comes as South Sudan marks World Humanitarian Day.

The day is annually held to rally for individuals who help those experiencing humanitarian crises.

It also recognizes and honors the contribution of aid agencies and pays tribute to aid workers who lost their lives while on duty.

The Country Director of Tearfund – an international Christian relief and development agency – called for the protection of humanitarian workers in South Sudan.

Rama Anthony told Eye Radio on Wednesday that aid workers need a safe environment to continue delivering assistance to vulnerable communities.

“I think it reminds us that there still work to be done in terms of improving the space for the safety of humanitarian workers, but also really broadly for the people of South Sudan.”

Attacks on aid workers

On January 30, 2021, a humanitarian worker was shot dead while returning from his work supporting vulnerable families near Bentiu. The unnamed staff worked for Joint Aid Management, an African-founded NGO operating in the country.

On February 14, gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying a polio vaccination team and supplies from Rumbek Centre to Rumbek North. At least 10 people including one health worker were killed in two separate incidents.

On April 24, angry youth entered an international NGO compound and physically attacked staff in Jamjang area of Ruweng Administrative Area.

One staff member was seriously injured and airlifted to a hospital.

Then on April 28, humanitarian workers were also physically assaulted by youth in separate incidents in Torit town, Eastern Equatoria state.

On May 7, a South Sudanese security guard working for ZOA protecting humanitarian supplies was killed during communal fighting in Gumuruk, Pibor Administrative Area.

On the same day, more than 2,000 cartons of Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food were looted.

The food included cereals, pulses, cooking oil and nutrition supplements for the treatment and prevention of severe malnutrition among 2,000 children.

Meanwhile, two schools with education material were also burnt down in Gumuruk forcing schools in all the four payams in Pibor county to temporarily close.

On May 10, staff of two international non-governmental organizations were physically assaulted in their compounds by angry youth in Renk, Upper Nile state.

On May 12, an aid worker was killed when criminals fired at a marked humanitarian vehicle between Camp 15-Chukudum road in Eastern Equatoria state.

A female aid worker for the Cordaid organization who was a Reproductive Health Specialist was killed in the attack. Clara Amono died from gunshot wounds.

A week later, another humanitarian worker was brutally murdered in Unity state on May 21.

Dr. Louis Edward who was working for the International Rescue Committee, IRC, was killed inside a health facility in Ganyliel Payam, Panyijiar County.

He was found in a pool of blood with a slid throat in a makeshift bathroom.

On the same day, an IRC’s convoy, including an ambulance, carrying 10 aid workers, was shot at by unknown gunmen at the outskirts of Guol village, south-east of Koch town in the same Unity State.

However, the humanitarians escaped unharmed.

Then on June 7, two employees of the Doctors with Africa -CUAMM organization were killed while traveling along the Aluak-luak – Mapuordit road.

Moses Maker, a nutrition manager, and a driver, Abraham Gulung Werwer were carrying nutrition supplies to the western part of the county.

This brings the total number of humanitarian workers executed in South Sudan over the last two years to 16.

In 2020 alone, nine aid workers were killed.

A total of 128 humanitarians, mostly South Sudanese, have so far lost their lives while providing humanitarian assistance to people since the conflict broke out in 2013.

These killings, assaults, and harassments have received significant condemnations from both the international community and local authorities.

However, none of the suspects from all these incidents have been arrested.

Aid agencies have often asked the government to ensure the safety and security of humanitarian workers and assets and engaging in urgent dialogue with donors.

11 countries -which are South Sudan’s humanitarian partners – demanded that the UN Mission and ceasefire monitors be allowed “unfettered access to all concerned areas to be able to exercise their mandates of protection of civilians and monitoring of the ceasefire.”

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