United Nations refugee agency chief Filippo Grandi on Monday called the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash in which all 157 passengers died - including over 20 UN-affiliated workers - "a sudden and terrible loss".
"We’ve been struck by sudden and terrible loss,” said Grandi, cutting short a visit to the Middle East and urgently returning to UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
“This is devastating for all families who lost their dear ones in yesterday’s crash. Our thoughts are with them.
Three UNHCR staff members lost their lives in the crash which happened six minutes after the plane took off from Addis Ababa bound for Nairobi on Sunday, Kenya, Grandi said.
The UNHCR statement named the three staff members who died as Nadia Ali, a Sudanese national aged 40, Jessica Hyba, Canadian national aged 43, and Jackson Musoni, Rwandan national aged 31, all of whom were parents to young children.
Grandi led colleagues in UNHCR operations around the world in observing a minute of silence on Monday in a mark of respect for the crash victims.
The UN World Food Programme said that seven of its staff died in the crash in which all 157 people on board the plane perished.
In a statement on Sunday, executive director David Beasley paid tribute the seven WFP staff members who he said "were willing to travel and work far from their homes and loved ones to help make the world a better place to live"