MSF Juba Press Release
Dozen killed including aid worker from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff in a renewed violence in Leer County of Unity State. This brings the total number of aid workers to over 130 being killed in South Sudan since 2013.
The organization has condemned the incident, saying the indiscriminate violence in Leer has resulted in the tragic deaths of innocent people, including its staff member Peter Mathor Tap and his family.
In a statement released by MSF, it has been the second time MSF lost its staff in a related extreme violence since December 2021.
According to the organization, late Mathor Tap has served MSF for a longtime. They called on the warring parties to cease hostility.
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the tragic death of our colleague Peter. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,” said Federica Franco, MSF Head of Mission for South Sudan. “We strongly condemn the indiscriminate violence being carried out by armed groups that have killed and injured many innocent civilians in Leer, including those most vulnerable, such as children, elderly and persons with disabilities,” the statement read.
“It is with great sadness that MSF confirms the death of Peter Mathor Tap, who had been working with MSF since 2007 in Leer, South Sudan. Peter was killed while off-duty on April 10th when fighting erupted in Leer. We send our deep condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues. MSF strongly denounces this attack, and call on all armed groups to cease the atrocities towards civilians,” it continued.
They said, the late has been a humble and hardworking person, and have served the organization in different position. “Peter Mathor Tap had been working with MSF in Leer since 2007, initially as Senior Department Supervisor at the former MSF hospital (which was destroyed twice during the civil war, once in 2014 and again in 2015), and more recently as Nursing Care Provider in one of MSF’s Community Based Health Care (CBHC) facilities. During the fighting on the 10th of April, Peter was shot and killed while he was off duty. As a child, Peter had suffered from polio, which left him with a disability and required him to use a stick to walk. This affected Peter’s ability to run away when the armed aggressors reached the area where he lived”.
MSF said that since the latest fighting begun, the MSF clinic in Leer town has received more than 25 patients with gunshots wounded, including several other trauma victims and including survivors of sexual violence.
The organization stressed that, the insecurity has resulted in the evacuation of several humanitarian organizations from Leer, saying the only healthcare left is MSF clinic that remained as a functioning healthcare facility in the entire county that provide advanced emergency care.
The report also said that, its initial assessments reported wide scale destruction, notably in Adok, Pilleny, Thonyor and Touchria where numerous people were killed, homes were set on fire and properties looted.
It said, as a result of the violence, thousands of people have been forcibly displaced, including MSF staff, saying those displaced are too scared to return home as many of them lost all their belongings.
It also said, many people have sought refuge in the swamps, where they are at risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea as well as malaria.
“We were hiding ourselves in the bush for five days. People are staying outside without shelter. Also, they are suffering due to hunger because they don’t have food,” said John*, a local MSF staff member who is among the people displaced in Leer. “The situation is very terrible. The people here need more support,” MSF said in the press released.
“The attackers were shooting and everyone ran to the swamp area because we were fleeing for our lives. People were slaughtered, including mothers, youth and young children,” one of the survivors of the incident, Nyadeng exclaimed.
She said that when they came out and found out that all the area burnt down, adding that the attackers took with them goats, cattle and also looted property.
The violence has also impeded the provision of vital medical services to the affected communities. Where out of the six CBHC facilities MSF that operates in Leer County, three are now non-functional; one facility was partially destroyed, and two others were looted during the latest attacks.
However, MSF said in a report that it will continue to operate and make ensure that people access much-needed medical care. They said, their clinic in Leer town and the three remaining CBHCs continued to operate, and have also begun conducting mobile clinics to the main displacement sites.
This year alone, at least three aid workers have been killed when delivering assistance to people across the country. In February, one person was reportedly killed in Agok, and another in Mirmir while several other people were reported wounded in the attack.
Last week, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Nicolas Haysom articulated his disappointment with the current violence along with attacks by armed youth militias.
“I was saddened to learn that only last week thousands of people in Leer, Unity State, were forced to flee their homes following a surge of violence, along with disturbing reports of sexual violence, looting, and destruction of civilians and humanitarian property,’’ he said.