(HN May 27, 2011) - Thousands of people are fleeing the conflict in the disputed Abyei region between north and south Sudan, prompting aid agencies to rush support to neighbouring areas and triggering a harsh condemnation by the UN's human rights chief.
As the security situation in the area continues to be volatile, the UN and other agencies are providing trucks, essential non-food relief items, fuel and medicines to support humanitarian operations. However continued violence has forced some mission back.
Northern troops, aircraft and tanks overran the border town of Abyei on Saturday, sending 40,000 residents fleeing and drawing condemnation from the international community, saying the action is a threat to peace between north and south.
The UN's High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, today called on both sides of the conflict to immediately cease hostilities and respect international human rights and humanitarian law. “I condemn the recent attacks and counter-attacks in the Abyei region by both sides – this is certainly no way to advance the peaceful coexistence of North and South Sudan,” she said.
“I am particularly alarmed by the shelling of civilian areas in Abyei by the SAF, as well as reports of aerial bombardment in other locations such as Todacch, Tajalei and in the vicinity of the River Kiir bridge. I urge all parties to explore a negotiated solution to the Abyei crisis and to avoid a descent into further conflict and chaos.”
Elisabeth Byrs of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said at a press briefing today in Geneva monitored by HUMNEWS that it was also possible – but not confirmed – that UN offices and stocks in Abyei have been looted.
Reports suggest that tens of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) have poured into Southern Sudan's Warrap, Unity and Northern Bahr El Ghazal states, says the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Many are in need of food and water and, with the recent heavy rains, may be vulnerable to water-borne diseases and respiratory tract infections.
IOM says it has registered four truck loads of IDPs who arrived in Turalei in Warrap State on May 25th. A further 1,000 IDPs arrived yesterday, May 26th , in Wunrok, south of Turalei.
IOM, which has registered some 6,500 IDPs in the past two days, has also provided transport for 138 IDPs who were walking towards Gogrial West, south west of Wunrok.
IOM is also distributing 1,000 kits containing non-food relief items, including plastic sheeting, jerry cans, mosquito nets, soap, blankets, sleeping mats and cooking utensils in Mayen Abun, and Turalei in Warrap State. It is also helping to construct emergency latrines.
Tracking and assessing the displaced population has been difficult because many people are still on the move or are hiding in the bush. The continued heavy rainfall has made some roads impassable and this has impeded access to areas where IDPs may be sheltering.
Also in the works for longer term assistance, which will include providing trucks to humanitarian organisations, coordinating the distribution of non-food relief items, procuring equipment to treat and distribute clean water, and organising the return of IDPs back to Abyei, once the crisis is over.
- HUMNEWS staff, UN