For the third time in three years, South Sudan has topped the list of most violent countries for humanitarian workers in 2017, according to a report by Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“It’s the third consecutive year that South Sudan tops the global list, underscoring the complexities in delivering aid in this war, and the impunity with which armed actors operate when attacking aid workers,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the NRC.
The report said almost one in three of the 158 major violent incidents against aid operations that took place in 2017 occurred in the world’s newest nation.
Syria, Afghanistan and the Central African Republic were listed the next most dangerous, followed by Nigeria and Somalia.
NRC disclosed that humanitarians were killed by gunfire in South Sudan in 2017, with 24 dying of gunshot wounds.
It added that 2017 also witnessed an increase in detention of aid workers by parties to the conflict and that these violent attacks included physical assaults and armed robberies.
“Aid workers are protected by international law and must not be used as pawns in South Sudan’s conflict.
“Violence against aid workers paralyses our lifesaving work,” said Egeland.
The charity revealed 100 aid workers have lost their lives since the conflict broke out in December 2013, with South Sudanese staff at the highest risk who often work in the hardest-to-reach locations, which can also be the most dangerous.
Mawien Makol, the South Sudan Foreign Ministry spokesman, acknowledged past incidences of attacks against aid workers but said the government was now in control of the security situation and is working with aid agencies to ensure protection of aid workers.
He added that attacks on aid workers have since the start of this year lessened compared to 2017.
The report comes in the wake of the recent final peace agreement reached in Khartoum between President Salva Kiir and Riek Machar, leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army-in opposition rebels.