News / Africa

100,000 Sudanese Displaced from Abyei

A machine gun-mounted truck manned by members of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) drive past burning businesses and homesteads in the center of Abyei, in this photograph released by the U.N. Mission in Sudan on May 28, 2011
A machine gun-mounted truck manned by members of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) drive past burning businesses and homesteads in the center of Abyei, in this photograph released by the U.N. Mission in Sudan on May 28, 2011

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Joe DeCapua

The U.N. refugee agency said more civilians are fleeing Sudan’s Abyei region. They began moving south after clashes between northern and southern forces over the oil-rich town on May 21. The Sudan Armed Forces from the north have been in control there since.

“In just a little bit over two weeks, we estimate that now there are about a hundred thousand people that are displaced, including the 77,000 that we have registered so far. So the numbers are quite large and the situation remains tense,” said UNHCR spokesperson Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba.

Where have they gone?

“The majority of the IDPs, internally displaced people, fleeing from around Abyei are heading to south Sudan, particularly in Warrap State, which is just adjacent to Abyei. And that’s where we have 68 percent of the displaced that have been registered so far,’ she said.

Most have gathered in the Turalei and Mayan Abun areas of Warrap State. The next biggest concentration of displaced is in the town of Agok, about 32 kilometers from Abyei.

“People have gone there despite the presence of armed civilians and military activities. We’re even seeing some people return to those areas because they feel that it’s relatively stable compared to when the fighting started,” said Lejeune-Kaba.

In need of much

Many of the displaced had little time to gather any food, water or possessions before they fled Abyei, “which leaves them in dire need of almost everything,” she said.

UNHCR is trying to address one of the biggest problems the IDPs face – a lack of shelter. The rush to leave also took a toll on families.

“We’re seeing a lot of children who, during the flight, were separated from their parents and they need to be reunified,” she said. “And we have been successful most of the time.”

A UNHCR team also found a woman who was five months pregnant, bleeding and in pain and took her to a hospital.

Harassment

Two elderly women have told UNHCR they were beaten by soldiers in Abyei before they fled.

“Also, in Agok, people [are] telling us that at night there are armed elements that cross from Abyei. That they shoot. They loot and they harassment people. So that’s worrying,” she said.

UNHCR is calling on both northern and southern forces to respect civilians and humanitarian workers and to refrain from further conflict that would trigger more displacement.

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