Aid workers increasingly at risk; aid workers' neutrality should be respected

Sudanese aid worker of Medecins Sans Frontieres killed in South Darfur

Amsterdam, 22 December 2004 - International medical relief organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is shocked by the murder of one of its Sudanese aid workers in South Darfur. According to reliable reports the aid worker was killed last Friday 17 December during an attack led by Government troops on Labado in South Darfur. The man was shot death in front of the MSF warehouse in Labado town whilst off duty. "We are not able to verify the death of our staff, because it is not yet secure to send a team. Other national staff members that were present in the town are still missing. MSF employs 38 national staff in Labado of whom 29 are still unaccounted for today.", says emergency co-ordinator Ton Koene.

Labado, a town with a population of 27,000, has been the scene of fighting over the past few days. The first people who fled the fighting are already arriving on foot in the towns of Shariya (50km north of Labado) and Kalma (100 km west of Labado). It is unclear where the majority of the population fled to. The MSF team in Kalma camp, close to Nyala, reported more than 70 families freshly arriving from the fighting. Eyewitnesses told MSF teams that Labado town is empty and destroyed. Most people who were living in Labado had sought refuge there from previous fighting in other regions.

MSF has been present in Labado since 4th September 2004 and has been the only international organisation providing continuous assistance to this population. MSF runs a feeding centre and clinic in the Labado. However, since the fighting erupted last week, the team has been unable to reach the town.

Aid workers are increasingly at risk in Darfur. Several organisations have lost staff. This is the second Sudanese aid worker of MSF who has been killed over the last 3 months. MSF calls upon all parties to respect the neutrality of our organisation, our staff and the work we do.