Six aid workers have been killed in an ambush in South Sudan, the latest such attack in the country suffering a famine blamed on a brutal civil war.
The aid workers were killed while travelling from the capital Juba to the town of Pibor in the east of the country.
“I am appalled and outraged by the heinous murder yesterday of six courageous humanitarians in South Sudan,” said Eugene Owusu of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in a statement.
“Their bodies were found on the road by other members of the convoy who were some way behind.
“The United Nations condemns this appalling and pointless loss of life.
“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,” he said.
Shearer urged the Government to investigate and apprehend the killers.
He said the attack, the single worst incident targeting aid workers in the country since the outbreak of hostilities in December 2013, came at a time when humanitarian needs had reached unprecedented levels.
“Such 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,” Eugene Owusu, the Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan, said.
Owusu stressed that security of relief workers has to be ensured so that they are able to provide relief to those with immense needs across the nation.
“The conflict has taken a devastating tool on the people of South Sudan: around 7.5 million people are in need of relief and protection, and the humanitarian crisis has deepened further with localized famine declared in parts of the country.”
According to him, at least 79 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since December 2013, including at least 12 in 2017.
He said the last two months alone had seen a sharp increase of attacks on humanitarians and looting of supplies intended for people suffering from the famine.
“On March 14, one health worker and a patient were killed in an attack on a humanitarian convoy that was responding to a cholera outbreak in Yirol East (in the central part of South Sudan).
“Earlier, on March 10, staff of an international non-governmental organization were detained by non-state armed individuals during fighting in Mayendit town, also in central South Sudan.”
The Humanitarian Coordinator expressed concerns that “every time an attack of this nature happens, we say that it must never happen again.
“And yet it does there is no safety when attacks are met with silence and inaction.
“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”.
The UN official underscored that the impunity that had prevailed for such crimes must end, and that perpetrators must be brought to justice. (NAN