Monday 25 March 2019

Nineteen United Nations staff on way to environmental conference among dead

Grief: Members of the Ethiopian Airline Pilots’ Association mourn at a memorial service for the victims of the crash. Photo: REUTERS
Grief: Members of the Ethiopian Airline Pilots’ Association mourn at a memorial service for the victims of the crash. Photo: REUTERS

Paul Schemm

Law students, tourists, writers, academics and a large number of aid workers and employees of the United Nations were among those who died in Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash.

The 157 victims represented 35 nationalities, a testament to how international the route between East Africa's two premier cities has become.

Addis Ababa, home to the African Union, has been called the political capital of the region, while vibrant Nairobi is the commercial capital. Both host the regional headquarters for several international institutions and large populations of expatriates.

Kenya suffered the biggest loss among the countries represented on the flight, losing 32 of its citizens. The United Nations, which has major operations in both Kenya and Ethiopia, was the hardest-hit organisation.

Many of the 19 UN staffers on board Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 were travelling to Nairobi for a UN environmental conference, which opened yesterday with flags at half-mast and a minute of silence for the victims.

"The environmental community is in mourning today," the UN Environment Programme said in a statement, describing the loss of "seasoned scientists, members of academia and other partners".

The United Nations' Rome-based World Food Programme (WFP), which takes the lead in feeding millions of people across the world and in the Horn of Africa, lost seven employees including Irishman Micheál Ryan.

"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," Executive director David Beasely said in a statement.

"That was their calling, as it is for the rest of the WFP family."

Two Italians working with WFP, Virginia Chimenti and Maria Pilar Buzzetti, were also killed.

At least seven British citizens also died. One of them was Joanna Toole, who worked with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in Rome and was on her way to the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi. (© Washington Post Service)

Irish Independent

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