9 August 2000
WFP EVACUATES STAFF
FROM MAPEL AS
ROME – After relief facilities at Mapel in southern Sudan were targeted in yet another round of bombing today, Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, strongly condemned the continued bombings and said that WFP will evacuate its aid workers from the area.
Bertini’s denunciation followed a statement made yesterday on behalf of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a UN briefing in New York. In the statement, the Secretary-General announced the temporary suspension of UN relief flights, pending a security assessment.
"These violent attacks are totally unacceptable and we strongly condemn them. They show there is no respect for aid workers trying to help innocent Sudanese," said Bertini from WFP headquarters in Rome.
"It’s obvious the attackers don’t care whether the hungry starve to death or not. If they did, they would not be out to stop our relief work. After today’s incident, we have no other choice but to evacuate our staff from Mapel."
This morning’s incident involved nine bombs being dropped by low flying aircraft near a relief facility at Mapel, located in southern Bahr El Ghazal. Initial reports are that there are no injuries. Eleven aid workers on the ground, including seven WFP staff, however, will be evacuated to safety this afternoon.
The bombing was a repeat of an incident on Monday at the same location, in whicha UN aircraft carrying relief workers and aid supplies was nearly hit by a shower of 18 bombs after it landed at a nearby airstrip. No injuries occurred but a fire was started near a fuel depot. Soon after, the relief workers aborted their mission and flew back to the air base in Lokichokio, Kenya.
These incidents follow just days after the Government of Sudan has repeatedly assured aid agencies that relief workers would not be targeted.
WFP and other aid agencies have recently urged the government and opposition forces to step up security after a boat carrying UNICEF relief supplies was attacked on the Sobat river on July 27 and two UN planes were nearly hit by bombs in Bahr El Ghazal on July 28.
Employing over 300 staff in its Sudan operation, WFP currently provides food aid to 2.2 million people in the country. At any one time, over 120 staff are in the field, overseeing air drops, organising food distributions and assessing food needs. Other staff provide support in Lokichokio, as well as in Nairobi, Khartoum, and field offices in the northern part of the country.
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WFP is the United Nations’ front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 1999, WFP fed more than 89 million people in 82 countries including most of the world’s refugees and internally displaced people.
For more information please contact:
Jeffrey Rowland, WFP/Rome
Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva Tel.+41-22-9178564
Abby Spring, WFP/New York