UN: 6 missing aid workers in South Sudan now safe

UN: 6 missing aid workers in South Sudan now safe
The UN managed to safely extract six aid workers that went missing after clashes broke out
2 min read
21 December, 2017
South Sudan's government blamed the opposition for the abductions [Getty]

The United Nations humanitarian agency says six aid workers who went missing after clashes broke out in South Sudan days ago have returned safely.

The UN statement on Wednesday says the workers are with two international groups, HealthNet and Solidarity International, and one local aid group. They include Solidarity International’s country director, Mainul Islam Opu from Bangladesh, and five South Sudanese nationals.

The workers disappeared Sunday when fighting erupted near the northwestern town of Raga.

South Sudan's government blamed the opposition for the abductions. The opposition said it rescued the aid workers from being used as "human shields" by the government.

A new opposition statement says the UN safely extracted the workers.

The fighting comes as peace talks on South Sudan's civil war have started in neighboring Ethiopia.

Earlier this month, the UN declared that more than one million people in war-torn South Sudan are one step away from famine – twice as many as at the same time last year, and called for their peacekeepers to stop being harrassed.

The US also threatened to take unspecified measures against South Sudan's government unless it moves to end the nearly four-year war and stop harassing UN peacekeepers and aid workers.

A report released by UN sanctions monitors accused the government of using food aid as a weapon of war during its campaign against opposition rebels in the northwestern city of Wau.

After aid finally reached civilians in August – the first time in a year – humanitarian workers "witnessed significantly high levels of malnutrition, with high rates of severe acute malnutrition," the report said.

Between January and September, 164 young children and elderly persons died from hunger and disease in that area, it said.

The United States is South Sudan's biggest aid provider and a key supporter of its 2011 independence from Sudan.

South Sudan descended into war in December 2013 when Kiir accused Riek Machar, his former deputy, of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands have died in the fighting and nearly four million have been driven from their homes.