30 May 2012

Sudan: WFP Worker Released in Darfur After Three Months of Abduction

Photo: Jamal Osman/IRIN
Queuing for food (file photo) : The situation in Sudan's Darfur region remains volatile and insecurity is an issue affecting the work of the humanitarian community serving the region.

Khartoum — An international aid worker was released Wednesday after around three months of detention in South Darfur state where he was abducted by unidentified gunmen.

Patrick Noonan, a British national working for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), was freed today after tough negotiations conducted by the local authorities. However, the state governor Ismail Hamad refused to give the details of the release.

In a press conference held jointly with the governor Hamad Nyala, Noonan told reporters that his captors treated him well and gave him food, but he suffered from a shortage of water. The governor explained that Noonan has kidney disease and the lack of water harmed him.

Hamad said Noonan health conditions forced the kidnapers to free him without paying a ransom.

The aid worker however said the abductors allowed him to contact his family.

The WFP coordinator of the WFP's Logistics Unit in Nyala had been kidnapped with his Sudanese driver Mohamed al-Maozi as they were heading towards the WFP's office near Al-Hilal stadium in down town Nyala at around 8am, local time, on Tuesday 6 March.

At the time, sources said they had been taken to Jebel Marra area. The governor today said they were fed with orange due to the lack of food and water. WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin welcomed Noonan's release stressing that "He went to Darfur with the aim of helping vulnerable people and his kidnapping was a great strain on his family, friends and colleagues." UNAMID chief Ibrahim Gambari praised the efforts exerted by the Sudanese authorities to release the hostages. He further warned that the abduction of aid workers was a violation of international humanitarian law and that the perpetrators must be found and prosecuted.

Gambari underlined that the volatile security situation in Darfur still hinders the humanitarian activities in Darfur.

Since 2009, 40 humanitarian workers have been abducted, including Noonan and six air crew working with the UN Humanitarian Air Service which is managed by WFP.

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