IOM Director General William Lacy Swing speaks at Geneva's Graduate Institute [Photo credit IOM/2015]
By James Deng Dimo
WAU, 17 March 2017 [Gurtong] - “I unequivocally condemn the attack on IOM staff, health workers and civilians, who were assaulted during a lifesaving humanitarian mission in Yirol East County, South Sudan,” said Ambassador Swing.
Yirol East County from a field mission on 14 March, one of the vehicles was ambushed by unknown armed gunmen. Tragically, two people died of gunshot wounds. Among the injured was an IOM health officer who sustained a gunshot wound but is currently in a stable condition.
“This tragic attack on aid workers and civilians is appalling. The assault took place in an area of South Sudan in dire need of assistance due to a deadly outbreak of cholera. In a country overwhelmed by the huge lack of basic necessities due to conflict, famine and health epidemics, these types of attacks undoubtedly harm the ability of humanitarian partners to provide assistance to millions in need of lifesaving aid,” Ambassador Swing added.
The identity and motivation of the attackers remain unknown.
A joint IOM health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) team of 12 had been deployed to Yirol East County, in central South Sudan, on 17 February to provide assistance to communities affected by a cholera outbreak that began in early February, with more than 300 cases and 10 deaths reported to date.
IOM health staff were supporting four cholera treatment units in Yirol East County, working closely with health actors on the ground to ensure coordinated social mobilization activities. To mitigate the spread of cholera, IOM WASH staff also undertook borehole rehabilitation, hygiene promotion and distribution of hygiene supplies, including water purification tablets, reaching more than 25,000 people.
Across South Sudan, IOM is responding to the emergency needs of millions affected by the crisis that erupted in December 2013. Over 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance this year, including nearly 5 million facing severe food insecurity and 1.8 million displaced internally.
Amid an already difficult operating environment, insecurity and access constraints continually hinder the ability of IOM and other aid agencies to reach the most vulnerable in many parts of the country.