Armed groups raided two food aid warehouses of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) that would have fed 23,000 people in two hard-to-reach areas in South Sudan, the aid organisation said, warning that the attacks came at a time humanitarian needs were increasingly in demand.
Looters attacked the NRC warehouses in Mirmir and Padeah, Unity State, in at least four incidents since the second week of February, the aid organisation said in a statement on Thursday, Feb. 24.
Witnesses told the NRC that the areas had become inaccessible due to different attacks on civilians and aid workers.
The NRC said it feared that more warehouses would be attacked which would deprive even more people in desperate need of aid.
The country, after gaining independence from Sudan in 2011, has been gripped by climate-related crises and clashes between government forces and a loose coalition of army defectors and ethnic militias, causing a dire humanitarian crisis.
Aid workers are increasingly being targeted and their facilities damaged as they try to help those most at risk.
Since the beginning of February alone, two aid workers were killed in separate incidents and with branded vehicles shot at.
The NRC said the attacks and looting of humanitarian aid “are unacceptable and severely limit the ability of aid workers to deliver assistance to the people who need it most.”
According to the United Nations humanitarian agency, more than 8.3 million people in South Sudan are expected to be in need of humanitarian assistance in the lean season of 2022, due to a worsening food insecurity that will drive more than half of the country into acute conditions.
The prevailing violence against aid workers is already hindering the humanitarian response, particularly in preparing supplies before the start of the rainy season, the NRC said.
Kennedy Mabonga, NRC’s Country Director in South Sudan, said the sharp rise in violence has forced aid workers to flee with their families with the aid organisation having to suspend its activities in some areas.
“We call on those involved in the violence, whether perpetrating it or encouraging it, to stop immediately. We ask the government of South Sudan and local authorities to investigate these incidents with the utmost urgency and seriousness, to prevent any further attacks on aid workers and to ensure that we can reach the most vulnerable people with aid,” Mabonga said.
The NRC said it assisted more than 800,000 Sudanese in 2021 to support livelihoods and food security, education, information counselling and legal assistance, protection, shelter, water provision, building resilience among communities and emergency response to flooding and conflict related displacement.
In 2021, South Sudan was listed as one of the deadliest places to be an aid worker, according to data from the Humanitarian Outcomes Aid Worker Security Database.
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