UN food agency chief deplores lack of security for aid workers in Sudan, Somalia
Following a spate of attacks on its staff in Somalia and Sudan, the head of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today decried the lack of security for humanitarian workers in those countries.
WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran also condemned the continued detention of agency staff member Idris Osman, who was seized by armed men in Somalia on Wednesday.
“I condemn in the strongest possible terms the continued detention of WFP staff by the security forces,” she said in a statement.
“It has become extremely difficult for us to feed hundreds of thousands of hungry people in Mogadishu and throughout Somalia. We are operating in an environment which is fraught with insecurity: piracy, banditry and widespread violence. We need the government to protect humanitarian workers.”
The agency's workers trying to help Sudanese in the troubled Darfur region are facing similar constraints. Ms. Sheeran, referring to the killing yesterday of three contract drivers there, said “This brutal attack on World Food Programme truckers and others like it, severely limit our ability to distribute this vital food assistance. More than 3 million people are relying on us for their survival.”
Mr. Osman was seized on 17 October when up to 60 uniformed and armed members of Somalia National Security Service stormed a UN compound in Mogadishu. They took him to a cell at NSS headquarters, where he remains captive.
The agency said two of its officials on 18 October spoke by telephone with Mr. Idris, who said he was unharmed. WFP has been given no explanation for the reasons behind his detention.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined WFP in calling for Mr. Idris' immediate and unconditional release.
In Sudan, a series of attacks on WFP food truck convoys in the last week has resulted in the deaths of three WFP-contracted drivers. Two were shot dead in one incident on 16 October and another died in a second earlier incident on 12 October.
On Thursday 18 October, another incident occurred near Jebel Mara in South Darfur. According to initial reports, five WFP-contracted trucks were stopped by 20 armed men. Two of the five trucks were stolen along with their cargo of relief food. All the drivers were released but some sustained injuries and all had been robbed.
Since the beginning of this year, WFP has had more than 20 attacks on convoys in Darfur plus many other security related incidents affecting staff and property.