Three International Organization for Migration (IOM) workers have been reportedly killed in a crossfire, during recent clashes between government forces and a rebel group, National Salvation Front (NAS), in Morobo, Central Equatoria region of South Sudan.
Two other workers were injured in the attacks while a female worker and the four-year-old son of one of the deceased workers have been abducted. Both sides deny responsibility for the crimes.
The incident happened just weeks after a high-level visit by the United Nations Security Council and continued efforts by regional actors to keep South Sudan’s peace deal afloat.
The UN found that attacks and harassment of aid workers have continued – including ambushes, detentions, abductions, and restrictions on access, especially in the Equatoria region even though the fighting has subsided across the country.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has documented similar attacks against aid workers and other civilians by both sides earlier this year during government counterinsurgency operations in Yei and other parts of Central Equatoria.
That 115 aid workers , most of them South Sudanese, have been killed since 2013 is a sobering fact. Families have been left without breadwinners and loved ones. Many other aid workers have suffered physical and mental injuries. Targeting aid workers is a war crime. These attacks not only impact the lives and wellbeing of those working at the front line but also disrupt the provision of life-saving assistance and services to people in need, HRW commented.
Humanitarian workers play an essential role, often working in difficult conditions, to alleviate suffering. All parties should end attacks on aid workers, investigate all attacks, and ensure those responsible for the crimes are brought to justice, demanded the rights group.
South Sudan continues to be one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with seven million people relying on humanitarian aid. (Source: HRW)