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Sudan: UN speeds up aid efforts in disputed town ahead of expected rains

Sudan: UN speeds up aid efforts in disputed town ahead of expected rains

United Nations officials say they are accelerating relief efforts in the area around the disputed Sudanese town of Abyei, the scene of deadly clashes earlier this month, to help tens of thousands of displaced persons ahead of the expected rainy season and any possible renewal of fighting.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, and the acting Humanitarian Coordinator to the country, Ted Chaiban, today also urged both the national armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) to maintain restraint so that aid can be sent unimpeded.

“We have a window of opportunity now before the onset of the rains,” Mr. Chaiban said. “However, any insecurity could quickly erode all our efforts. We simply cannot afford to have further displacement and we urged both sides to engage in confidence building and restrain from any further hostilities which ultimately affect the most vulnerable people.”

The UN estimates that as many as 50,000 people have been displaced since fighting erupted in and around Abyei on 14 May between Government forces and the SPLA, which in January 2005 signed a comprehensive peace agreement ending the long-running north-south civil war.

An impasse over the boundaries and status of Abyei has been one of the stumbling blocks since then in fully implementing the peace accord as the area is contested by both sides.

Mr. Chaiban and Mr. Qazi saw the devastation first-hand in Abyei during a mission to the affected region and also visited the nearby towns of Agok and Muglad, where many people have fled.

Humanitarian operations are being led from Agok and Mr. Chaiban praised the efforts of both UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for trying to help the locals, who are still struggling to rebuild their lives and communities in the wake of the civil war.

UN aid agencies have so far distributed more than 80 tons of food supplies, while water and sanitation teams have drilled fresh boreholes and installed water pumps at several sites. Health and nutrition clinics have also been set up to assist affected locals.