Tuesday, February 28, 2012


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20 October 2011

UNJustice is saddened to know about the quarrel over the tragic loss of Michael Allan Prior, a UN-WFP pilot from South-Africa.

UNJustice hopes that the relevant UN-WFP authorities will give effective attention to the serious concerns of the widow, Mrs. Sheila Prior, and resolve this sensitive matter.

Mr. Prior, 52 years old, was found dead in bed in his hotel room in Surkhet, Nepal, on 23 March 2010. The day after, the autopsy conducted at Kathmandu Autopsy Center, Department of Forensic Medicine, concluded that the cause of death was coronary atherosclerotic heart disease. A disease which has many risk factors, including stress.

Michael Allen Prior has deserved recognition for his work and it has included a thoughtful letter of condolence to Mrs. Prior from UN-WFP Executive-Director:

“Mike joined WFP’s efforts to combat hunger in March 2005 as a Consultant and served WFP in different challenging duty stations including Chad and Sudan. Mike joined WFP Nepal in September 2008 and continued to serve WFP with great dedication and steadfastness.

Colleagues who knew him personally, fondly remember him as a caring and compassionate human being, with a winning, sincere smile. He was always ready to help others, and was an incredible source of comfort and strength to his colleagues. He will be truly missed by the WFP,” Josette Sheeran wrote.

Mrs. Prior, who is 60 and unemployed, has told UNJustice of her devastation at her husband's death and she feels that she has been let down by the UN-WFP:

“I had a stroke the day UN-WFP informed me over the phone that Mike had passed away. UN-WFP gave me another blow when Mike’s belongings were delivered in ugly bags made of coarse cloth, it looked like a refugee’s belonging being sent back to his country delivered by a courier company.

I was not paid any life cover and I will lose everything Mike and I worked for, even the roof over my head. I tried everything to have an explanation, even their Facebook page, where I approached UN-WFP Executive-Director and received a comment from her that Office of Human Resources is the right place to go. But the Office of Human Resources is not responding to me anymore. They threatened to block me if I sent other messages to their Facebook page, and finally they did.

I was told that my late husband’s contract was from 4 July 2009 to 3 January 2010, and that it was extended. But UN-WFP Legal Department did not give me any proof of an extended contract. I fear that Mike was working for UN-WFP without a signed contract when he died in March 2010. Without a signed contract how can I know if Mike had applied for the voluntary life cover? It is their word against a dead man’s word.

I also have a medical report stating that when Mike started to work with the UN-WFP, in 2005, his heart was healthy. Then he went to Chad, Sudan and Nepal where, in November 2008, he collapsed on duty at the airport next to a UN Helicopter. The Chief Pilot gave Mike cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 1 hour and 15 minutes and saved him. The stress of his work and living in those places have injured his health. Mike’s heart problems showed in the autopsy are similar to those mentioned in the medical report after his collapse on duty in November 2008 –the electrocardiogram strip was classified abnormal, it showed left atrial enlargement and left ventricular hypertrophy. If this would have happened home, we would have done everything to find out what was wrong with Mike. Any employer that had an employee almost dead for over an hour will know that there is a serious health problem with that employee. After the 2008 accident my husband should have already been sent back home”, says Sheila Prior.

UNJustice is embittered to know that, on 11 October 2011, an officer in the UN-WFP Legal Department has responded to the widow’s concerns by saying “Dear Ms. Prior, As you know, WFP has already reviewed these issues and provided extensive responses to you and to your representatives. We have nothing further to add. Thank you.”

UNJustice recalls that any allegedly work-related injury is a serious matter of concern. UNJustice believes that and Mrs. Prior bitter disappointment should not be indifferent to the UN-WFP and calls on the UN-WFP to give an adequate answer to the multiple, excruciating questions raised by Mrs. Prior about the employment with the UN-WFP of her late husband.

Please take action to demand that the UN-WFP issues the instructions necessary to adequately consider the concerns of late UN-WFP pilot Michael Allan Prior’s widow, Mrs. Sheila Prior.

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