The United Nations lost 19 of its staff in the ill-fated Ethiopian Airlines flight ET302, which crashed on Sunday shortly after take-off.
A statement from UN said World Food Programme (WFP) lost seven staff, Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) lost two, while the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) lost a similar number.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in Sudan, World Bank and UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) each lost one staff member. Six staff from the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) also died in the latest air disaster involving the Boeing 737 MAX craft.
“Early indications are that 19 staff members of UN affiliated organisations perished,” said International Organization for Migration head Antonio Vitorino.
“Numerous other staff members from at least five UN and affiliated organisations are understood to have also perished,” he said. Along with the IOM, the World Food Program, UN Refugee Agency, World Bank, UN Environment Agency and others lost colleagues, he said.
Among the IOM staff on the plane was Anne Feigl, who worked for the agency’s mission in Sudan. Mission chief Catherine Northing remembered Feigl as “an extremely valued colleague and popular staff member, committed and professional.”
Meanwhile World Food Program director David Beasley, who confirmed seven of his staff had died, said: “As we mourn, let us reflect that each of these WFP colleagues were willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones to help make the world a better place to live.”
In a statement, Geneva-based UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, did not confirm the number of colleagues among the dead – but said his agency had suffered a “huge loss.” People from 35 nationalities lost their lives, with Kenyans being the majority at 32. The flight also had 18 Canadians, nine Ethiopians and eight Americans.
So far, the cause of the crash has not been known, although weather conditions were reportedly good and the plane went down in a field near Bishoftu, around 35 miles southeast of the capital Addis.
The UN added in the statement that the disaster happened on the eve of the UN Environment Assembly when Heads of State, environment ministers and thousands of others will convene for five days at Gigiri Nairobi.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sent sympathies to and expressed solidarity with the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of United Nations staff members.
“He conveys his heartfelt sympathies and solidarity to the victims’ families and loved ones, including those of United Nations staff members, as well as sincere condolences to the government and people of Ethiopia,” the statement said.
“The United Nations is in contact with the Ethiopian authorities and working closely with them to establish the details of United Nations personnel who lost their lives in this tragedy.”
Source: Daily Nation