Home Africa Number of UN officials killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash rises to 21

Number of UN officials killed in Ethiopian Airlines crash rises to 21


By Prudence Arobani

The number of United Nations officials killed in the Ethiopian Airlines that crashed on Sunday has risen to 21 from the initial 19 reported by the global intergovernmental organisation.

The UN headquarters, in an update on Monday, said the World Food Programme (WFP) lost seven officials as against the six reported on Sunday while the Office of the High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) lost three officials, as against the two earlier reported.

The International Telecommunications Union lost two officials in the ill-fated Ethiopian airplane, which crashed shortly after take-off from Addis Ababa, killing the 157 people on board.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in South Sudan, World Bank and UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) each lost one staff member.

Six members of staff from the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) also died.

Amb. Abiodun Bashua, a retired Nigerian career diplomat,  who was until his death, working on contract with the UN Economic Commission for Africa , also died in the crash, alongside Canada-based Nigerian professor at Carleton University, Pius Adesanmi.

The Spokesperson  for the UN Secretary-General, Mr Stephane Dujarric, said the 21 UN personnel were “confirmed as being on the ET 302 flight. The numbers are valid of now and may change later.”

UN flags flew at half-mast around the world on Monday to honour the more than 150 people killed in the ill-fated Ethiopian airplane.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, while leading tributes to UN workers who died in the crash, at the UN headquarters in New York, stressed the need to keep “their spirit of service alive”.

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Guterres said it was “a sad day for many around the world, and for the UN in particular.”

A global tragedy has hit close to home and the United Nations is united in grief,” he said.

Guterres  extended his “deepest condolences” to the relatives and loved ones of all those who died.

“Our colleagues were women and men, junior professionals and seasoned officials, hailing from all corners of the globe and with a wide range of expertise,” he said.

The secretary-general added: “they all had one thing in common. A spirit to serve the people of the world and make it a better place overall.

“Let us honour the memory of our colleagues, by keeping their spirit of service alive.”

A minute of silence was observed in honour of the dead.

The President of the General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa,  on Monday, passed on “heartfelt thoughts” to all friends and families of the victims.

“This is a popular route for many fighting for the good of Africa,” she said.

“My heartfelt thoughts are with the friends and families of those affected by the devastating crash,” Espinosa added.

In Nairobi, where Ethiopian Airlines flight 302 was bound, UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) Acting Director-General, Maimunah Mohd Sharif, spoke of her “great sadness and shock”.

“The United Nations and its Member States have suffered a huge loss. We are working closely with authorities to gather further information.

“We join the international community in mourning the loss of so many lives, including those countries who have also lost citizens in this devastating crash,” Sharif wrote in a statement.

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The top UNON official said that the staff observed a moment silence in the Kenyan capital on Monday morning to remember “our colleagues and friends” who had died.

A similar tribute was held at the UN in Geneva (UNOG), where Director-General Michael Møller spoke of his “profound shock” at the news.

Extending his sympathies to the victims’ families and friends, Møller said that a number of staff counsellors were on their way to Nairobi from different UN organizations in Geneva.

On Sunday, the Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, said each of those who died in the plane crash was “willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones, to help make the world a better place to live.”

According to figures released by the airline, citizens from more than 35 countries were involved in the accident, which involved a Boeing 737 airliner bound for the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

Kenya suffered the heaviest loss, with 32 nationals on board the plane, followed by 18 Canadians and nine Ethiopians.

On Monday, as Ethiopia observed a day of national mourning, investigators announced that they had recovered the aircraft’s black box.

After taking off at 8.44a.m. local time on Sunday, the jet lost contact with air traffic control at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, crashing six minutes into its flight.

The fatal crash marked the second time that a new Boeing 737 Max-8 plane had gone down in five months, the first being off the coast of Indonesia, in October 2018.


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