UN mourns after 21 staff killed in Ethiopia plane crash

Twenty-one UN staff members were among those killed when Ethiopian Airlines Flight ET302 crashed into a field just six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa (AFP Photo)
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Flags flew at half-staff at the United Nations on Monday after 21 UN employees were killed in an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said marked a “sad day” for the world body.

Guterres led delegates at the opening of the annual gathering on women’s rights at the General Assembly in observing a moment of silence in honor of the victims.

“A global tragedy has hit close to home ? and the United Nations is united in grief,” he said at the Commission on the Status of Women.

UN ambassadors opened a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan by standing in silence for the victims of Flight ET302, which crashed Sunday shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa. All 157 people onboard were killed.

Among the dead were many traveling to a UN environment conference in Nairobi.

Ms Rosa Malango, the UN Resident Coordinator for Uganda (C) and Almaz Gebru, the UNDP Uganda Acting representative (L) observe a moment of silence in honour of the 157 people who died in the Ethiopian Airlines flight, that included atleast 19 UN staff.

The World Food Programme lost seven staff in the crash while three employees of the UN refugee agency UNHCR were killed.

Three others worked for the UN office in Nairobi and there were also victims from the International Organization for Migration, the UN Environment agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Telecommunication Union, the UN office in Somalia, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank.

– WFP suffers loss –

WFP released the names of the seven killed, many of whom were based in the agency’s Rome headquarters including Zhen-Zhen Huang from China, Michael Ryan from Ireland and Harina Hafitz from Indonesia.

The other four were: Ekta Adhikari from Nepal, whose duty station was Addis Ababa, Maria Pilar Buzzetti and Virginia Chimenti from Italy and Djordje Vdovic from Serbia.

“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. That was their calling, as it is for the rest of the WFP family,” said WFP director David Beasley.

UNHCR said it mourned the loss of Nadia Ali, Jessica Hyba and Jackson Musoni.

“We’ve been struck by sudden and terrible loss,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi who cut short a visit to the Middle East to return to headquarters in Geneva.

“We are doing everything we can to help Nadia?s, Jessica?s and Jackson?s families at this most difficult and painful time.”

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the tragedy ranked among the worst for the United Nations.

In 2011, a UN-chartered plane crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, killing 32 people who worked for the United Nations and non-governmental organizations.

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