The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Nigeria, Edward Kallon, in a statement on Saturday expressed concern over the attack on the UNHAS aircraft in Damasak, Borno State, on Thursday.
Kallon said, “I am gravely concerned about reports of another violent attack by non-state armed groups in Damasak, Borno State, on July 2, in which at least two innocent civilians lost their lives, including a five-year-old child.
“Several others were injured, and a humanitarian helicopter was hit, sustaining serious damage,” he said.
Kallon condemned attacks on humanitarian aid workers and facilities.
“I strongly condemn any attack against civilians, humanitarian assets or aid workers and call on all armed parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law and ensure the protection of civilians, humanitarian property and personnel.
“I furthermore call on all parties to allow and facilitate safe and unimpeded access for humanitarians to deliver life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people in the Northeast,” he added.
He extended his condolences to families of the civilians who died in the attack and wished quick recovery to those injured.
The UN official confirmed that the UN Humanitarian Air Service helicopter was hit by bullets during the attack and that no aid workers were on board at the time.
He commended the crew for piloting the chopper to safety, adding: “My thoughts are also with the crew and I commend them for piloting the chopper back to safety during this critical situation.”
Kallon said the attack and damage to the helicopter affected the ability of aid actors to provide urgently needed assistance to vulnerable people in remote areas across Borno State.
“The UN Humanitarian Air Service is essential to evacuate wounded civilians and remains the backbone to facilitating humanitarian access, thereby enabling UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to safely and securely reach the most vulnerable population.
“In 2019, UNHAS transported 66,271 passengers and 147 megatons of humanitarian assistance, as well as conducted 30 medical and 70 security evacuations,” Kallon explained.
He noted that insecurity and violent attacks had continued to hamper the ability of people to access basic services or livelihoods and recover from the protracted crisis in Northeast Nigeria.
“The United Nations and NGO partners are working to bring life-saving assistance to 7.8 million people in the crisis-affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states, many of them in remote areas,” the official said.
According to him, Nigeria government’s commitment to investigate the attack and swiftly bring to justice the perpetrators is a welcome development.
He, however, called on the Nigerian authorities to reinforce the safety and security of all humanitarian workers in the Northeast.