The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed profound shock and sadness over the killing of its polio field surveillance officer in Bentiu city in South Sudan.
In a statement, WHO condemned “the violent death” of Daniel Deng Galuak who was shot dead by an unidentified attacker at a health facility in Bieh Internally Displaced Persons camp in the northern Bentiu city in Unity State on 19th September, 2022. The motive behind the attack is yet to be established, the statement noted.
“We are deeply shocked by Galuak’s death. Our hearts go out to his family at this most difficult and sorrowful time. This attack has robbed a family of a beloved member and WHO of a committed frontline health worker.”Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa
Galuak’s death is a huge loss not only to his family, but to the efforts by WHO and partners in health emergency response in South Sudan and the important work of protecting children from the debilitating and potentially life-long impacts of polio.
“Access to health care is a basic right and those working tirelessly in many parts of the South Sudan to provide life-saving humanitarian services to the most vulnerable populations must not be targeted.”Dr Fabian Ndenzako, WHO Representative in South Sudan
Galuak worked for WHO as a field assistant from 2000 to 2015 and as a field supervisor from 2016. His responsibilities included ensuring effective polio surveillance, planning and conducting polio supplementary immunization and coordinating routine immunization activities.
Despite the sad event, WHO assured that it will continue to work with partners to support the government in reaching the most vulnerable populations with health services in South Sudan.
Civil War in South Sudan
South Sudan has been battling with civil war for almost a decade now. In December 2013, following a political struggle between Kiir and Machar that led to Machar’s removal as vice president, violence erupted between presidential guard soldiers from the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan.
Soldiers from the Dinka ethnic group aligned with Kiir and those from the Nuer ethnic group supported Machar. In the midst of chaos, Kiir announced that Machar had attempted a coup and violence spread quickly to Jonglei, Upper Nile, and Unity states.
From the outbreak of conflict, armed groups targeted civilians along ethnic lines, committed rape and sexual violence, destroyed property and looted villages, and recruited children into their ranks.
Though the security situation in South Sudan has significantly improved since the recently signed peace deal between the opposing parties in the country’s civil war, fighting still continues in South Sudan.
A new UN report released earlier this month documented 173 civilian deaths over a four-month period along with widespread human rights violations committed without repercussion.
Published jointly by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the document reported gross abuses of international human rights law and serious violations of international humanitarian law in Unity state.
The report, which covered the period between 11th February and 31st May, 2022, was based on 32 verification missions conducted by UNMISS in the three counties of Koch, Leer, and Mayendit as well as in neighboring areas.
The violence and incursions have displaced approximately 44,000 civilians from at least 26 villages. In addition to those killed, hostilities in southern Unity State have affected at least 28 villages and settlements — with approximately 12 injured, and 37 women and children abducted.
Many abductees were subjected to sexual violence, including girls as young as eight-years-old. A total of 131 cases of rape and gang rape have been documented, including the case of one nine-year-old girl who was gang-raped to death.
UNMISS identified joint Government forces and allied militias/groups reportedly operating under the command of officials of Koch and Mayendit counties as the main perpetrators of the human rights violations and abuses.