Abducted UN aid worker freed after almost three months in captivity in Darfur

Abducted UN aid worker freed after almost three months in captivity in Darfur

WFP logistician Patrick Noonan.
After close to three months in captivity in Darfur, Sudan, a staff member of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has been released.

A logistician based in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, Patrick Noonan was abducted by armed men on the morning of 6 March, along with a Sudanese driver who was released later on the same day.

“All WFP staff are celebrating the release of Patrick, today,” said WFP's Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin, in a news release. “He went to Darfur with the aim of helping vulnerable people and his kidnapping was a great strain on his family, friends and colleagues. We are thankful for his safe release.”

Mr. Noonan, a UK national, had been in Sudan for about two years at the time of his abduction 86 days ago.

The situation in Sudan's Darfur region remains volatile and insecurity is an issue that has affected the work of the humanitarian community serving the region. Since 2009, 40 humanitarian workers have been abducted, including Mr. Noonan.

WFP, along with the UN Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS), the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), the Government of Sudan and the embassy of the United Kingdom had been working on his release in close cooperation with the relevant local authorities in Darfur.

The head of UNAMID, Joint Special Representative Ibrahim Gambari – who also serves as the UN's senior-most security official in Darfur – praised the efforts of the Government in securing Mr. Noonan's release.

At the same time, Mr. Gambari also warned that the abduction of humanitarian workers was a violation of international humanitarian law and that the perpetrators must be found and prosecuted.

“The international community in Sudan and Governor Hamad Ismail Hamad worked closely together to secure the release of Mr. Noonan, whose job was to bring desperately needed humanitarian aid to Darfur's most vulnerable people,” said Joint Special Representative Gambari in a news release. “I am aware of Governor Hamad's personal commitment and the efforts of South Darfur's security bodies that enabled the safe release of Mr. Noonan. It is now crucial that the Government of Sudan authorities pursue the hostage takers and bring them to justice.”