Victims of attack on UNHCR in Yei in stable condition in Nairobi hospital

News Stories, 17 March 2006

© UNHCR/H.Caux
Yei town in south Sudan where the dramatic incident at UNHCR's compound took place on Wednesday. The banner relates to a campaign late last year on violence against women.

GENEVA, Mar 17 (UNHCR) A UNHCR staff member and a local guard severely injured in an attack Wednesday night on the refugee agency's compound in Yei, south Sudan, are now in a stable condition in a Nairobi hospital after being evacuated by air yesterday from south Sudan's capital, Juba. A UNHCR security and operations team is heading to Yei to assess the situation, following an initial rapid assessment mission on Thursday.

During the attack by two armed intruders, one local guard and one intruder were killed. Six other UNHCR international staff were in the compound at the time of the attack but were uninjured and are safe.

"The UNHCR staff member evacuated an Iraqi national was shot three times in the abdomen during the attack and underwent surgery last night after arrival in Nairobi. He had previously undergone surgery in Juba to stabilise his condition before being medevac-ed to Nairobi," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond told journalists at a regular press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Redmond said a fuller assessment of the wounded staff member's condition was expected later in the day. He is in intensive care but now in a stable condition.

The guard who was also evacuated had sustained a bullet wound to the leg during the attack and requires surgery. He is in a stable condition and his life is not in danger.

A UNHCR security and operations team is heading to Yei to assess the situation on the ground, following on from an initial rapid assessment mission Thursday by a senior UNHCR official, the deputy UN resident coordinator in south Sudan and UN security.

"High Commissioner António Guterres is sending a team from our Emergency and Security Service to south Sudan to assess the situation on the ground. Separately, our Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins and the director of our Sudan-Chad operations, Jean-Marie Fakhouri will go to Yei," Redmond said.

Non-essential UNHCR staff in Yei are scheduled to travel to Nairobi today for debriefing on the traumatic incident.

High Commissioner Guterres said on Thursday, that the shocking event in Yei just underscored the difficulty UNHCR faced working in south Sudan trying to create a sustainable environment for returning refugees.

UNHCR established a presence in Yei in 2004 to prepare for the return of south Sudanese refugees from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda to the West Equatoria region.

The first repatriation movement from the DRC scheduled for next week has now been suspended while a review of the situation in Yei is being conducted.

Sudan's 21-year civil war in the south came to an end in January 2005 after the signing of peace accords. UNHCR and other agencies had been working in the war-devastated south Sudan before the accords were signed to pave the way for the return of refugees.

In Yei during the last year, the UN refugee agency and its partners have been rehabilitating the hospital and several schools as well as developing income-generating activities for returnees.

There are some 350,000 refugees from South Sudan in neighbouring countries, including 13,300 in DRC, and some 4 million people displaced within Sudan. Some 58,000 refugees are preparing to return home in the first half of this year before the rainy season starts.

Late last week UNHCR launched a US$63.2 million supplementary appeal for the agency's return and reintegration operation in south Sudan, and has so far received US$8 million. The appeal noted that security remained a concern in many parts of the south because of inter-ethnic tensions and rivalries between various armed groups.