“Youth from my village followed the trail of footprints left by criminals to Odiradira and managed to retrieve t-shirts, caps and documents which were stolen from humanitarian representatives. They found the items hidden in a forest next to farmland in Eboni and Ibahure,” revealed Andrew Abure, chief of Lohilang village.
Mr. Abure was referring to an assortment of tablets, clothing items, personal protective equipment, tents, documents, personal mobile phones and some cash which was recently looted in Odiradira, Eastern Equatoria, when humanitarian vehicles were ambushed by suspected armed youth.
While much of the expensive stolen goods such as phones, tablets and money couldn’t be found, humanitarians working for the affected organization were appreciative that their documents and files were recovered.
“We are thankful to the people of Odiradira for recovering important files and documents which are crucial for us continue our aid operations here,” a representative said.
According to communities living here, criminal activities along the main road in Lafon are a direct result of a recurring cycle involving cattle raids, revenge killings, land disputes and widespread hunger.
“We need peace between the communities in Lafon so that we are able to safely access services such as education and healthcare,” avers Ilam Augusto from Imehejek payam (Administrative division).
Residents here need humanitarian support, including training on modern agricultural practices for farmers as well as proper health facilities. Hunger is a major issue due to the ravages of floods, desert locusts and currently, a severe dry spell.
Hence, the gesture of goodwill from villagers who took it upon themselves to recover stolen items.
“I appeal to international partners to come here and assess the situation of our communities. We genuinely need food security and aid as well as support on farming practices,” says Mangisto Okach, County Commissioner, Lafon.
However, insecure road conditions have necessitated that humanitarian partners need UNMISS peacekeepers to provide force protection to their convoys.
“It is essential for our humanitarian partners to be able to support these remote communities to prevent famine-like conditions,” reveals Mark Omina, a Protection, Transition & Reintegration Officer, with the UN Peacekeeping mission.
“UNMISS is mandated to create conditions conducive for the delivery of humanitarian aid to people who need it the most and our peacekeepers are, therefore, constantly available to ensure our partners are able to reach communities in and around Lafon safely. However, this trend of criminality and robberies needs to stop, and we are liaising with local authorities to find a solution.”