The World Food Programme (WFP) has temporarily halted aid operations in Sudan as a result of the fighting between rival military groups in Sudan, which led to the deaths of three WFP employees on Saturday. The UN Secretary-General has called for those responsible to be brought to justice.
According to a statement attributable to the Executive Director of the UN agency, Cindy McCain, the workers were carrying out life-saving duties in Kabkabiya, North Darfur.
In a separate incident on Saturday, a WFP-managed UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) aircraft was significantly damaged at Khartoum International airport during an exchange of gunfire, seriously impacting WFP’s ability to move humanitarian workers and aid within the country.
In the statement, Ms. McCain explained that aid operations in Sudan have been suspended, pending a review of the evolving security situation.
“WFP is committed to assisting the Sudanese people facing dire food insecurity,” said Ms. McCain, “but we cannot do our lifesaving work if the safety and security of our teams and partners is not guaranteed. All parties must come to an agreement that ensures the safety of humanitarian workers on the ground and enables the continued delivery of life saving humanitarian assistance to the people of Sudan. They remain our top priority.”
Any loss of life in humanitarian service is unacceptable and I demand immediate steps to guarantee the safety of those who remain.
Ms. McCain emphasized that threats to WFP teams make it impossible for them to operate safely and effectively in the country and carry out the UN agency’s critical work.
‘Justice without delay’: UN Secretary-General
Responding to the crisis on Sunday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for those responsible to be brought to justice without delay.
In a statement attributable to Mr. Guterres, he expressed deep concern about the continued clashes, and reminded the warring parties of the need to respect international law, including the obligation to ensure the safety and security of all United Nations and associated personnel, their premises, and their assets.
The Secretary-General reiterated his call for an immediate halt to the fighting and for a return to dialogue, and emphasized that he continues to engage with regional leaders and with Sudanese stakeholders to find a way out of this crisis.
Aid workers ‘not a target’, looting of UN premises must stop
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan and Head of the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission (UNITAMS) Mr. Volker Perthes strongly condemned the attacks on Sunday, and insisted that civilians and humanitarian aid workers are “not a target.”
Mr. Perthes referred to reports of projectiles hitting UN and other humanitarian premises, and of looting at these premises, in several locations in Darfur.
The UNITAMS chief said that these acts of violence disrupt the delivery of life-saving assistance, and must end. “When incidents like this occur, it is women, men, and children in desperate need of assistance who suffer the most.”
Mr. Perthes announced on Sunday that he had convinced the two warring parties to the current fighting to briefly pause hostilities, on humanitarian grounds, between four and seven PM, local time.
Security Council members call for calm
The members of the Security Council added their voices to the calls for an end to hostilities on Sunday, in a statement expressing their regret for the loss of lives and injuries.
In the statement, they urged the parties to restore calm, and return to dialogue to resolve the current crisis in Sudan.
They went on to stress the importance that humanitarian access is maintained and the safety of UN personnel is ensured, and reaffirmed their “strong commitment to the unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Sudan.”