By Joan Ahumuza
Juba: The United Nations Immigration Agency has suspended Ebola screening exercise at five border points between South Sudan, Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), after three of its aid workers were killed during clashes in South Sudan.
“The IOM volunteers, one female and two males, were caught in a crossfire during clashes that broke out in South Sudan’s Central Equatoria region,” UN migration agency said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Two other male volunteers suffered non-life threatening injuries, one of whom is recovering from a gunshot wound,” the statement added.
UN migration agency said the volunteers were working at Ebola screening points in border areas between South Sudan, Uganda, and DRC, where an ongoing outbreak of the virus has killed thousands of people since August 2018.
During the attack a female volunteer and the four-year-old son of the murdered female aid worker were abducted and their whereabouts are unknown to date.
The UN migration agency Director-General Antonio Vitorino expressed great pain and revulsion after the attack.
“We grieve alongside our staff in South Sudan, for the families of the victims and reiterate that humanitarians and civilians are not and should never be subjected to such heinous acts of violence – we are not a target,” said Vitorino.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA also condemned the killings in a statement, adding that it was the first reported killing of aid workers in South Sudan since 2018.
Aid workers have frequently been targeted by armed forces operating in South Sudan since conflict erupted in 2013 after President Salva Kiir accused his then vice Riek Machar, of plotting a coup.
The war has resulted in hundreds of thousands of people being killed and a quarter of the country’s 12 million population being forced from their homes.
According to the UN’s humanitarian agency, at least 115 aid workers have been killed since the start of the conflict.
A peace deal was signed in September last year and a ceasefire has largely held since then, although fighting in the Central Equatorial region has continued between government forces and a holdout rebel group.