The UN's Humanitarian Coordinator in South Sudan issued a statement on Wednesday, October 7, condemning an attack on a World Food Programme (WFP) Nile River convoy in Lakes State in which three aid workers were injured. The WFP convoy, consisting of three cargo vessels and an escort boat, was reportedly ambushed in the Shambe area of the state on Monday, October 5, whilst delivering food aid from Bor to communities displaced by recent flooding in Melut and Malakal. One of the cargo vessels was reportedly sunk after coming under sustained small arms fire from the riverbank. At least one crew member from the sunken cargo vessel is reported to still be missing and is presumed to have been killed in the attack.
Further attacks on both overland and river traffic are likely in Lakes State and other areas of South Sudan in the medium term.
Although Monday's incident is the first major attack on a humanitarian river convoy, multiple attacks against aid workers have been reported in the country in recent years, including ambushes of road convoys and communal violence incidents. At least seven aid workers have been killed in the country in 2020, bringing the total since the beginning of the civil war in 2013 to 122. The majority of those killed have been local South Sudanese humanitarian agency and NGO employees, but expatriate aid workers have also been targeted.
Travel in all areas of South Sudan is hazardous. Banditry and lawlessness are common in remote regions, particularly along the borders with the DRC and Central African Republic. Violent crime in such areas often targets foreign nationals and there have been reports of foreign nationals being victims of kidnapping, armed robbery, carjacking, and murder. Criminal and militant ambushes occur regularly on roads in isolated parts of the country as well as on routes leading to Juba. The Juba-Nimule road and other routes near the border with Uganda have seen a particularly high number of attacks on convoys and single vehicles in recent years.
Due to the high threat of violent crime, all travel to South Sudan should be subject to a thorough localized threat assessment and undertaken in coordination with a trusted security provider. Travelers are advised to subject all travel, particularly to remote and rural areas, to strict journey management protocols. Avoid travel at night, vary routines, and maintain a heightened sense of situational awareness. Monitor local media sources to remain apprised of security-related developments and adhere to any directives issued by local authorities.
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