JUBA, South Sudan, April 23, 2018- -A distribution of seeds and farming tools for approximately 24,600 people was interrupted after armed men attacked the International Committee of the Red Cross’ compound in Leer, South Sudan, forcing staff to evacuate and program activities to be suspended.
“We are shocked and disappointed by this attack, which is not only an attack on the ICRC, but also on the people we are here to assist”, says Francois Stamm, ICRC’s Head of Delegation in South Sudan.
Gunshots were directly fired at the ICRC field base in Leer just after midnight on April 10th. One ICRC guard suffered minor injuries to his leg and received medical care in Leer.
Eight ICRC staff were evacuated to Juba the following morning.
The team was in Leer to distribute seeds and farming tools to families so that they could plant their crops in advance of the country’s rainy season. As a result of the attack, only 8,600 persons were able to receive the much needed assistance. The area was one of the locations where famine was officially declared last year and has been a flashpoint in the country’s nearly five-year-long armed conflict.
“This attack has meant that 16,000 people have now been left without the supplies they need to plant their crops at a time when food security is worsening across the country”, says Stamm. “While we will do everything possible to ensure that the remaining families receive seeds and tools in time for the planting season in May, the security of our staff is paramount and it is not clear yet when we will be able to return.”
The security conditions for humanitarian workers have deteriorated in recent weeks in former Unity state, where Leer is located. “We take this opportunity to remind all parties to the conflict that any attack on humanitarian aid workers is unacceptable and a violation of international humanitarian law”, says François Stamm. “Aid workers are not a target and attacks such as these only compound the suffering of the South Sudanese people.”