Press Release: UN refugee chief expresses shock at shooting in Sudan of UNHCR driver, John James Okwath
GENEVA - UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres expressed his deep sadness at the death in crossfire today in the Malakal area of southern Sudan of a UNHCR staff member, John James Okwath.
According to available information Mr. Okwath, a 26-year-old driver for UNHCR, was struck in the chest by a bullet during fighting between army elements in Malakal. He died later in hospital. Further details of the circumstances are still not clear.
"John's death is a shocking and tragic loss for his family, for his friends, and for all of us at UNHCR," Guterres said. "For many of us it is also a reminder of the risks that John and other dedicated individuals like him face daily in caring for the world's forcibly displaced. We stand together in solidarity with him and with his family."
At UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, a minute's silence was held on Friday in honour of Mr. Okwath. Messages of condolence were conveyed to his family. John leaves behind a wife and three-year-old daughter.
UNHCR staff frequently face risks in their work in helping the world's 43 million forcibly displaced people. John's killing is the first of a UNHCR staff member since July 2009, when Zill-e Usman, a national officer, was shot and killed in Pakistan.