The World Food Programme (WFP) says it is shocked and sad at the murder of three drivers of trucks contracted by the United Nations agency in Sudan in two separate incidents over the past three days.
Mohamed Ali was shot dead and his assistant was seriously injured by unidentified assailants on Monday while travelling on the main route into Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, the agency said in a press release issued in Khartoum.
The press release issued in Accra on Wednesday by the UN Information Centre said on Saturday, in Unity state in southern Sudan, Hamed Abdulla Sharif and Hamed Ibrahim Digel – who were transporting food supplies to Abyei – were stabbed to death by six men on a riverbank in the town of Abiemnom.
Calling the situation “completely unacceptable,” WFP’s representative in Sudan, Kenro Oshidari, said the agency’s contracted trucking companies and drivers were facing daily acts of violence.
“Attacks like this must stop,” he said. “All parties must recognize that the drivers of humanitarian vehicles and their cargo are serving a neutral humanitarian purpose. By attacking humanitarian staff, these assailants are also hurting innocent people who need food assistance.”
Already this year, 56 trucks have been involved in hijackings, with 36 trucks st ill missing and 24 drivers unaccounted for. Another six passenger vehicles belonging to WFP have also been stolen in the Darfur region.
Last October, three WFP-contracted drivers were also killed while transporting f ood to Darfur, and last week the members of a four-man team with the State Water Corporation were abducted in North Darfur state.
Mr. Oshidari said the recent surge in banditry meant WFP had to curtail its food deliveries to Darfur by half, with the turnaround time for deliveries slowed be c ause of the dangers posed to truckers while driving on roads in the region.
Currently the agency provides a monthly food ration to more than two million Darfurians.
WFP also has extensive operations in southern Sudan and the three areas of Abyei , South Kordofan and Blue Nile following the signing in January 2005 of a comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) ending the long-running north-south civil war. Although attacks on truckers in the south are less frequent than in Darfur, the region remains volatile.