The United Nations top relief coordinator today urged the administration in southern Sudan to ensure the protection of aid workers, decrying cases of harassment and violence against humanitarian staff in the region.
“Harassment of and violence against humanitarian workers is unacceptable and I am concerned for their security,” Valerie Amos, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator said on her first full day of a six-day mission to Sudan.
She noted that although violence in southern Sudan has decreased compared last year, ethnic conflict, politically-motivated unrest and attacks by armed gangs believed to be members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) continued impede humanitarian operations in the region.
Humanitarian agencies have reported worsening operating environment in the region in recent months, with 118 incidents of interference with aid delivery seen this year.
Ms. Amos, who arrived in Sudan yesterday, said that despite prospects for a good harvest in 2011, food shortages this year, coupled with seasonal floods and continuing insecurity have led to precarious humanitarian conditions.
In Juba, the capital of southern Sudan, Ms. Amos met the President of Southern Sudan, Salva Kiir, other Government officials, donor representatives, UN and non-governmental organization officials. Discussions focused on insecurity and humanitarian access to people in need.
She asked the Government to renew its commitment to ensure that the delivery of humanitarian assistance is unhampered and allowed to proceed without any political, ethnic or religious considerations.
On the ongoing spontaneous return of displaced people to their villages, as well as the Government of southern Sudan’s accelerated return initiative, Ms. Amos stressed that the process must be voluntary and orderly.
“Ensuring that returns take place in a free and principled manner is the responsibility of the Government,” she said. “However, humanitarian workers are ready to assist where there is clear humanitarian need, and where the Government is not able to provide the required support,” she added.