United Nations agencies in Sudan have deplored the ransacking of humanitarian premises and looting of emergency relief supplies in the disputed area of Abyei, which was last week taken over by Sudanese Government troops, and urged all parties to respect the property and assets of aid groups.
In a statement released yesterday, the UN Country Team in Sudan also called for “free and unhindered movement of humanitarian workers and relief items to vulnerable communities that have been displaced from their homes during the recent upsurge in conflict in Abyei and the surrounding region.”
The looting happened as thousands of civilians displaced from Abyei a week ago were on the move to Southern Sudan after Sudanese Government troops took over the disputed territory, which is claimed by both the Government of Sudan in the north and Southern Sudan, the semi-autonomous region due to formally secede on 9 July.
Looted relief supplies included medicines, surgical equipment, 800 tons of food – enough to feed 50,000 people for three months – non-food items and water and hygiene equipment. Those supplies had been dispatched to Abyei town in recent weeks to respond to the urgent needs of the town’s residents and the rural population in surrounding villages.
In Turalei, 130 kilometres from Abyei, 15,000 displaced people are living in the open, while an additional 4,000 people have sought safety in nearby Mayen Abun village, according to the UN. An unknown number of people are believed to have fled into the bush between Agok and Turalei.
The UN said in its statement that humanitarian organisations are scaling up their response to the humanitarian crisis spawned by the recent violence and displacement in Abyei.
“Humanitarian agencies are working around the clock to provide assistance,” said Georg Charpentier, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan. “Food and emergency items are being distributed in Mayen Abun and Turalei. Medical and nutritional screening is underway in 11 health posts and seven nutrition centres.
“Broken water points are being repaired, emergency bladders are being set up and latrines are being constructed. Specialists in child support have also been deployed to help children separated from their families,” Mr. Charpentier said in the statement.
Despite the difficult conditions in remote areas of Southern Sudan, non-governmental organisations are present and UN agencies had pre-positioned emergency supplies.
The UN Country Team, however, voiced concern over fuel shortages and the fact that airstrips may become unusable due to heavy rainfall.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, reported that the situation in Abyei town remained volatile with sporadic bursts of gunfire and more looting reported.
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), the Abyei hospital is not functioning and Southern Sudan Ministry of Health staff had been relocated to Agok. The health ministry staff and WHO officials conducted a one-day mission to the hospital in the town of Muglad and found medical records that indicated that 71 patients had been admitted with injuries.
Deadly clashes have claimed dozens of lives since the start of the year, when a referendum on Abyei’s status that was supposed to have been held never took place amid disagreement on voter eligibility.