By Taban Henry
Warehouses with food aid for thousands of people affected by floods have been looted by armed groups in South Sudan in areas that are now out of reach for aid workers.
In a statement released to the media on Thursday, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Kennedy Mabonga, the NRC’s Country Director in South Sudan confirmed that at least two warehouses in Mirmir and Padeah in Unity State have been attacked and looted in at least four incidences over the last two weeks, depriving at least 23,000 people in desperate need of aid.
He added that the attacks come at a time of rising violence in the country in which humanitarians are increasingly harmed and their facilities damaged as they try to help those most at risk. This month two humanitarians were killed in separate incidents and branded vehicles shot at.
“The sharp rise in violence has forced our aid workers to flee with their families, forcing us to suspend our work in several areas,” said Kennedy Mabonga, NRC’s Country Director in South Sudan. “Witness accounts that reached us speak of untold atrocities being committed against civilians, as well as widespread attacks on aid workers. We also fear that more of our warehouses will be attacked depriving even more people in desperate need of aid,” he said.
Mabongo warned that attacks and looting of humanitarian aid are unacceptable and severely limit the ability of aid workers to deliver assistance to the people who need it most.
“At a time when South Sudan is facing unprecedented humanitarian needs, every bag of food stolen from our warehouses is directly snatched from a family that desperately needs it,” he said.
The prevailing violence against aid workers is already hindering the humanitarian response, particularly in preparing supplies before the start of the rainy season.
“We call on those involved in the violence, whether perpetrating it or encouraging it, to stop immediately. We ask the government of South Sudan and local authorities to investigate these incidents with the utmost urgency and seriousness, to prevent any further attacks on aid workers and to ensure that we can reach the most vulnerable people with aid,” he stated.
This year more than 8 million people in South Sudan will be in need of humanitarian assistance due to a worsening food security situation in which more than half of the country will have acute needs. Last year NRC assisted more than 800,000 people in South Sudan to support livelihoods and food security, education, information counselling and legal assistance, protection, shelter, water provision, building resilience among communities and emergency response to flooding and conflict related displacement.