Humanitarian support geared up for Abyei displaced

27 May 2011

Humanitarian support geared up for Abyei displaced

26 May 2011 – Humanitarian agencies have prepared to assist tens of thousands who have fled to the south after recent violence in Abyei town, but efforts are compounded by insecurity and looting.

After traveling with a military patrol in Abyei today, UNMIS Spokesperson Kouider Zerrouk described the area as completely deserted. Most of the town's nearly 40,000 residents had fled or were moving further south in search of refuge following Abyei's seizure by Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) last Saturday.

"Abyei is now a ghost town", Mr. Zerrouk said, while meeting with the UN Country Team. "The only presence on the ground is SAF and Misseriya militias."

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), an estimated 30,000 people had made their way south by 26 May and reports of new arrivals had continued.

Mr. Zerrouk said that determining the number of displaced persons remained a challenge as the population was still on the move, calling on the SAF to grant urgent access to all areas they controlled and allow for rapid humanitarian assessment.

Access in the area remained largely restricted due to insecurity, the spokesperson said, adding that OCHA was planning additional missions by air and land to locate the displaced people, and gradually expand humanitarian access in Abyei.

The International Organization for Migration had registered nearly 8,500 displaced people in Warrap, Unity and Northern Bahr El-Ghazal states by 25 May, but reported some 6,030 unregistered persons in the same area.

"Humanitarian agencies are working around the clock to provide assistance," UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier said in a statement today. "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."

The World Food Programme is assisting more than 6,000 people with a total of some 100 metric tons of assorted food commodities in Mayen Abun, Turalei and Wunrok (Warrap State). All verified displaced people receive a one-month ration, including cereals, pulses, oil and salt.

However, food rations from UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Abyei have been ransacked and stocks of emergency relief items looted, hindering the aid response.