August 13, 2014 (NEW YORK) – The UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has reported that the situation in Maban county’s Bunj, where several aid workers were killed last week, remains calm, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing in New York on Wednesday.
- Food is distributed at a refugee site in South Sudan’s Upper Nile state (Photo: WFP/Ahnna Gudmunds)
UNMISS is continuing to carry out daily patrols close to refugee camps and in Bunj town, with the agency extracting a humanitarian aid worker from Kaya refugee camp on Tuesday.
“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that aid agencies are still operating with minimal staff due to the tense security environment, but essential humanitarian operations are continuing in the four camps,” said Dujarric.
The UN began evacuating some 220 non-essential staff and aid workers last Wednesday after at least five aid workers were killed.
Local militia group the Mabanese Defence Forces have been blamed for carrying out the killings, which came one day after another aid worker was murdered in the same area.
Gabriel Yien Gach, a South Sudanese national who worked for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA), was dragged from an NPA vehicle and shot dead last Monday after identifying himself as a member of the Nuer ethnic group.
The militia group appears to be targeting civilians of Nuer origin after it clashed with Nuer soldiers defecting from the South Sudanese army (SPLA) a week ago.
The killings have outraged the UN, with the Security Council warning that attacks against humanitarian personnel may constitute a war crime.
During a recent visit to Bunj, the UN humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, said the humanitarian community was committed to staying in Maban, and in other areas affected by the conflict, but that aid workers had to be able to do their work in safety.
According to Dujarric, there have also been reports of small arms and mortar fire in the strategic Upper Nile town of Nasir on Wednesday.
The fire, which appeared to be coming from the direction of a South Sudanese army (SPLA) military camp, was believed to be directed towards the Sobat River as well as Nassir market.
Conflict has been raging in South Sudan since mid-December last year after a political rift in the country’s ruling party (SPLM) turned violent, reigniting tribal tensions across the country.
Ongoing peace talks have failed to halt the violence, with aid agencies warning the country is now facing a humanitarian catastrophe.
Meanwhile, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that aid agencies are preparing to send a rapid response team to provide food, health and other emergency assistance to people in Upper Nile state’s Longochuk county in response to reports of exceptionally high levels of malnutrition there.
Upper Nile State has the highest annual number of acute malnutrition cases in South Sudan.