Statement Attributable To -
United Nations Children's Fund Executive Director Carol Bellamy
World Food Programme Executive Director Catherine Bertini
UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Kenzo Oshima
NEW YORK, 21 February 2002 - We strongly condemn the 20 February 2002 attack by a Government of Sudan helicopter gunship that killed 17 civilians and wounded an unknown number of others at a food distribution site near Bieh, Sudan. The Sudanese authorities had cleared this food distribution, and vulnerable populations had gathered in the location to receive humanitarian relief assistance provided by the United Nations.
This latest incident is part of an alarming pattern of attacks by the Sudanese government and associated militias against civilians at or near food distribution points and looting of humanitarian facilities. On 2 February, facilities belonging to the non-governmental organization Medecins Sans Frontieres at Nimne were looted and its laboratory deliberately damaged. On 9 February, Nimne was attacked by a Government of Sudan aircraft, which killed five civilians, including one MSF relief worker. On 10 February, two people died and a dozen more were injured when a military aircraft dropped bombs at a site in Akuem where the World Food Programme had just finished distributing food to hundreds of people.
These acts are especially shocking when set against the backdrop of a population in dire need of assistance and the apology issued last week by the Government of Sudan for the Akuem incident. We call on the Government of Sudan to cease all attacks against civilians immediately and to ensure the safety of those trying to provide or receive life-sustaining humanitarian assistance.
For further information, please contact:
Alfred Ironside, UNICEF Media, New York, + (212) 326-7261