An estimated 20,000 people have fled the urban centre in the contested Sudanese territory of Abyei since fighting broke out in the area last week, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today, adding that aid workers are ready to start delivering relief supplies to those displaced.
The internally displaced persons, half of the town’s population, have sought refuge with relatives and other communities as far away as Agok, 40 kilometres south of Abyei town, and are in need of food, shelter, water, sanitation facilities and medical assistance, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in an update.
Abyei, which is sandwiched between northern and southern Sudan, was due to have voted in a separate referendum in January, when Southern Sudan opted for secession, on which side it would join. But failure to establish a referendum commission and lack of agreement on who could vote precluded a ballot.
The area has been bedevilled by tensions between the northern and southern governments and frequent outbreaks of violence between local communities who are divided between nomadic pastoralists who support the north and ethnic groups who side with the south.
Meanwhile, an appeal for funds to carry out humanitarian work in Sudan this year remains greatly underfunded, with only 24 per cent of the $1.7 billion required received to date, according to OCHA.