Humanitarians have strongly condemned the latest deadly assault on aid workers in South Sudan, urging the Government to step up security and bring those responsible to justice.
The appeal comes after a convoy of more than 100 trucks transporting food and other assistance was ambushed on Friday in Jonglei state.
Two contracted drivers were shot, one fatally, and another person died in a related road accident. A humanitarian worker was injured and is currently receiving treatment.
The attacked marked the latest in a series of escalating incidents targeting convoys and aid workers in the country, the UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA) said on Monday.
More than 20 violent incidents were reported in January alone - more than double the number in January 2022.
"The humanitarian community is appalled by the continued attacks targeting humanitarians and their assets; these recurring acts of violence disrupt the delivery of life-saving assistance and must end," said Meshack Malo, interim UN Humanitarian Coordinator for South Sudan.
Convoys temporarily halted
Due to the attack, the World Food Programme (WFP) has been forced to temporarily pause its convoy movements out of Bor, Jonglei state, for the second time in as many weeks. The UN agency is reassessing mitigation measures.
"This corridor is critical for our food prepositioning ahead of the rainy season when roads are inaccessible and more than one million people in Jonglei and Pibor rely on the humanitarian food assistance that we transport along this route," said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Country Director in South Sudan.
She stressed that the safety and security of staff and contractors is of the utmost importance, adding that when attacks occur, "it is women, men, and children in desperate need of assistance who suffer the most."
South Sudan is among the most dangerous places in the world for humanitarians, according to OCHA. Nine aid workers were killed last year, and nearly 420 incidents were reported. Before this latest attack, three aid workers lost their lives in the line of duty.
This year, an estimated 9.4 million people in the country will need assistance or protection assistance.
Call for justice
OCHA said the humanitarian situation is worsened by factors that include endemic violence, access constraints, public health challenges, and such climate shocks as flooding and localized drought.
"While humanitarians continue to work tirelessly to provide the much-needed vital support, the continuation of violent attacks inadvertently hampers their efforts," Mr. Malo said.
"We call on the authorities to take urgent action to improve security, to protect civilians, humanitarian personnel and commodities, and bring perpetrators to justice."