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UN gears up to mount relief effort after thousands of Sudanese flee disputed town

UN gears up to mount relief effort after thousands of Sudanese flee disputed town

United Nations agencies are preparing to bring humanitarian relief to the tens of thousands of Sudanese who fled the disputed town of Abyei last week because of deadly fighting between Government forces and the southern rebels with whom they reached a peace deal three years ago.

Between 30,000 and 50,000 people are estimated to have been forced from the town of Abyei, which lies in an oil-rich area near the boundary between north and south Sudan, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported today.

Ameerah Haq, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, said UN assessment teams are now determining the needs of the displaced population, particularly regarding food, water, shelter and medical care.

“Many thousands of those people have been repeatedly displaced and have just come back home this year to be forced to flee again at a time when they were planning to till their land for the next planting season,” she said.

The situation has been complicated by the arrival of the annual rainy season, which brings a heightened risk of outbreaks of malaria and other infectious diseases, especially among local children.

A joint meeting on Thursday between the Government and the SPLA, under the auspices of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), struck an agreement to end the clashes in Abyei, which is now largely deserted.

An impasse over the boundaries and status of Abyei has been one of the major stumbling blocks preventing the full implementation of the January 2005 comprehensive peace agreement (CPA) that ended the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan.