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UN decries increased violence against aid workers in South Sudan

JUBA — The UN humanitarian agency has decried increasing violence against aid workers in South Sudan, with 100 humanitarian access incidents being reported in June, the highest number recorded in any month so far in 2017.
The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report released on Saturday evening that although there was a reduction in the number of conflict and insecurity incidents impacting humanitarian access in June, with no relocations of aid workers carried out during the month, partners reported a substantial rise in incidents involving violence against personnel and assets, from 29 cases in May to 46 in June.
"At least 24 humanitarian compounds, including offices, residences, and warehouses, were broken into countrywide in June, resulting in the looting of humanitarian supplies and theft of staff member's personal belongings," the UN said in its Humanitarian Bulletin.
It said violence against aid workers and assets included compound break-ins, looting of humanitarian supplies, and physical assault.
The UN reports over 80 aid workers have been killed since outbreak of conflict in December 2013, and have continuously condemned attacks on humanitarian workers by armed groups besides blockading of badly needed aid to over 6 million South Sudanese on the verge of starvation.
According to the OCHA, government soldiers reportedly forcibly entered an NGO compound in Budi County, Eastern Equatoria, assaulted guards and commandeered the organization's vehicle on June 24.
A group of youth forcefully on June 28 entered an NGO compound, barricaded the entry and physically assaulted staff members in Ajoung-Thok, Pariang County, Unity.
"Humanitarians reported that nine out of the 14 community volunteers and health workers, who had been detained by armed forces in Guit County, Unity, on June 6 remained in detention as of July 13," said the UN.
It said talks with the authorities for the release of the workers are ongoing.
The UN said several organizations faced challenges transporting cash out of Juba for their humanitarian operations, with the authorities requesting new and additional paperwork.
OCHA said violence against humanitarians also increased along main road routes where at least 20 incidents of robbery or ambush of vehicles that were traveling to undertake humanitarian assessment and response missions, and to pre-position and deliver vital humanitarian supplies were recorded in June.
"Such incidents were particularly prevalent in Lakes, Western Equatoria, Eastern Equatoria and Central Equatoria. In Yei, armed men reportedly ambushed an NGO vehicle at Limbe on Lainya-Yei road about 15 kilometers from Yei town on June 7," it said.
South Sudan has been embroiled in more than three years of conflict that has have taken a devastating toll on the people.
According to the UN, South Sudan has become a hostile environment for aid workers to operate. In March, gunmen killed six aid workers on a road linking the capital, Juba to the Eastern state of Boma.
Under international Humanitarian Law, intentional attacks against humanitarian relief personnel may constitute war crimes. (PNA)
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Last Modified: 2017-Jul-17 20.00.06 UTC+0800