The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has condemned the “senseless killing” of one of its truck drivers who was ambushed in southern Sudan after delivering vital food supplies to the agency’s warehouse in Juba.
Muzamil Ramadan Sida, a 28-year-old Ugandan, was shot by unidentified gunmen on 27 June. Mr. Sida’s assistant escaped after steering the truck to a stop 300 metres from the site of the attack.
“We are all saddened by this senseless killing and send our deep condolences to Mr. Sida’s family,” said Daniela Owen, WFP Coordinator in southern Sudan. “Drivers of food relief trucks risk their lives to bring urgently needed food to vulnerable people. Such attacks are completely unacceptable.”
Mr. Sida’s death brings to five the number of WFP-contracted drivers or their assistants killed in attacks in southern Sudan this year. Two drivers were killed in March and a driver and his assistant were killed in April. Both incidents occurred in southern Sudan’s Unity State.
The perils of road travel in Sudan highlight the vital role played by the WFP-run Humanitarian Air Service (HAS), which flies aid workers to critical areas of the strife-torn nation.
WFP announced today that, thanks to nearly $15 million in contributions from donors, the agency will be able to continue running the service until the end of September. Earlier this month, WFP had warned that the service may have to be grounded to a severe lack of funds.
“These donations have arrived just in time. Our passengers – relief workers from more than 200 aid organizations operating in Sudan – would be unable to do their vital work without WFP-HAS,” said Kenro Oshidari, WFP Representative in Sudan.
“The air service is especially important at this time of year, when the rains make most roads impassable. Added to that, banditry and insecurity have made it too dangerous for humanitarians to travel by road in many parts of Darfur,” noted Mr. Oshidari.
WFP-HAS carries about 15,000 humanitarian passengers per month on routes throughout Darfur and southern Sudan. It links both regions with the capital Khartoum.
While Mr. Oshidari thanked donors, he stressed that some service cuts must remain in place and warned that WFP-HAS has no funds confirmed beyond September – meaning it still risks closure in the fourth quarter of 2008.