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Two South Sudan Aid Groups Suspend Operations After Workers Killed

An aerial view shows flooded homes within a village after the River Nile broke the dykes in Jonglei State, South Sudan Oct. 5, 2020.

Two aid groups have suspended operations in parts of eastern South Sudan after gunmen killed two of their workers late last week.

The suspensions will make matters worse for thousands of citizens displaced by widespread flooding in Jonglei state.

Annette Hearns, deputy head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Juba, said the killings not only affected aid delivery to vulnerable people but caused more suffering for the families of the deceased.

“We condemn this type of behavior. Our colleagues, South Sudanese citizens who are giving their ultimate sacrifice, these people are attempting to support children who are malnourished, the new mothers and help them receive the support they need to live,” Hearns told VOA’s South Sudan in Focus.

An employee with Plan International was killed October 29 in the Pibor Administrative Area, according to a UNOCHA statement released Monday. The aid worker was on a team returning to Pibor on foot after delivering critical nutrition services to women and children affected by violence and flooding when the team was attacked by unidentified armed men, said OCHA. Another aid worker was seriously injured in the attack.

A second aid worker, working with the local organization Nile Hope, was killed in Pigi County of Jonglei state on October 30, according to a UNOCHA statement released Tuesday. The South Sudanese aid worker was shot and killed by armed youth while he was traveling from the organization’s base to a facility that provides supplementary feeding and outpatient therapeutic care to malnourished children and new mothers.

After the attacks, both aid agencies suspended operations in the two areas, said Hearns.

“Any time such incident happens, all activities from the humanitarian services have to stop. We have to suspend activities, life-saving services to the most vulnerable population in order to keep everyone safe. And that is the safety of the aid workers but it is also the safety of the vulnerable population that we serve,” Hearns told VOA.

Gatwech Peter Kulang, undersecretary in South Sudan’s humanitarian affairs ministry, said widespread flooding continues across several parts of Jonglei state and suspending operations will put the lives of vulnerable people at higher risk.

“With the current situation that we are in, it is unfortunate that there could be another issue that can be added to the community,” Kulang told South Sudan in Focus.

Kulang called on all South Sudanese to refrain from acts of violence, saying attacks like the ones on the two aid workers only worsen an already dire humanitarian situation.

Hearns urged people to use their influence to stop others who engage in violence.

“We call on everyone who has the potential to influence those who choose violence over words to please ensure that humanitarian activities are [to care for] the most vulnerable and they have unhindered access to all the services that they require,” said Hearns.

Nine humanitarian aid workers have been killed in South Sudan this year. A total of 124 aid workers, most of them South Sudanese, have been killed in South Sudan since the country’s conflict erupted in late 2013, according to the United Nations.