News / Africa

Doctors Without Borders Treating Wounded in Sudan Conflict

Hundreds of southern Sudanese take part in a demonstration against northern Sudan's military incursion into the border town of Abyei in the southern capital of Juba, Sudan, May 23, 2011
Hundreds of southern Sudanese take part in a demonstration against northern Sudan's military incursion into the border town of Abyei in the southern capital of Juba, Sudan, May 23, 2011

The medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders says it is continuing to follow people on the move from violence in Abyei, an area claimed by both north and South Sudan.  This follows an intense battle two days ago in which northern government troops seized the area.  The United Nations has demanded that the north remove its troops from Abyei immediately.  

Residents of Agok, a village 40 kilometers south of Abyei, are moving further south to a place called Turalei, because of fears of further violence.

Joining Agok residents are those who fled Abyei on Saturday, when northern Sudanese troops took control of the disputed area.  The U.N. mission in Sudan reported continued burning and looting in Abyei town on Monday.

Gustavo Fernandez, program manager of Doctors Without Borders' Abyei program, says his staff is setting up surgical operations in Turalei and is monitoring the situation. "Since Sunday, basically what we are doing is following up the general condition of this population on the move and we are trying to, through mobile clinics, pick up those that were found in the most severe medical condition on the road and bring them to the hospital," said Fernandez.

Doctors Without Borders also evacuated its staff from Abyei.

In its hospital in Agok, the medical aid agency treated 42 people wounded in the attack.  He says many of those patients are back on the run.

Fernandez says his team has treated a number of children suffering from dehydration, who have had little access to water since the violence broke out.  He says his team has set up a re-hydration unit in the hospital.

Fernandez says Abyei is a virtual ghost town. "The information coming out is that Abyei is in complete control of the Sudanese armed forces and the town is essentially empty.  There are no civilians there," he said.

Both north and south Sudan claim that oil-rich Abyei belongs to their territory.  In a January referendum, southerners voted overwhelmingly to separate from the north, who they had been at war with for more than two decades.

A separate referendum on what would happen to Abyei was canceled because of disputes over who was eligible to vote.

South Sudan is scheduled to become an independent country on July 9, but many fear this might not happen because of the Abyei dispute.

Both armies were conducting joint patrols of the area.  A northern army convoy was attacked Thursday, and accused the south of carrying out that attack.  

The south has called Saturday's territory seizure "illegal."  On Sunday, the U.N. Security Council demanded the north withdraw its troops immediately from Abyei.

Fernandez says his staff is committed to staying in the area for the time being, but that may change if the security situation worsens.

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