25 May 2011 – UN Humanitarian Coordinator Georg Charpentier yesterday called for protection of the civilian population forced to flee Abyei town and surrounding villages, assurance of their safe passage and their right to return.
During a two-day visit to the Abyei area that ended today, UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Deputy Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General (DSRSG) Charpentier visited some areas affected by recent fighting in Abyei.
Following his mission to Abyei, Agok and Turalei towns, accompanied by UNMIS Force Commander Maj. Gen. Moses Obi and heads of several UN agencies including the World Food Program and UN Refugee Agency, Mr. Charpentier called in a statement for unimpeded humanitarian access to assess locations and needs of the displaced population, and provide necessary emergency relief.
Since the heavy fighting in Abyei, which began on 19 May, most of Abyei's population have fled towards Agok, 40 kilometres to the south. Prior to the recent outbreak of fighting, the civilian population of Abyei town had been estimated to be at least 30,000 people, according to the Office of the Resident Humanitarian Coordinator.
"This is a vulnerable population, which has suffered in recent months from temporary displacement and inadequate access to basic goods and services, and whose coping mechanisms were already stretched to the limit before the outbreak of fighting," said the statement, which was issued on 24 May.
According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), most civilians had left Agok by late on 24 May, fearing deterioration of security. During the early hours of yesterday, local sources reported that the town was calm but tense.
UN aid agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been mobilizing emergency relief supplies from pre-positioned stocks in Agok and further south in Warrap and Unity states. As most of the displaced are reported to have fled to Turalei, humanitarian response is focused around there.
"The United Nations and international community are making humanitarian assistance a priority," Mr. Charpentier said while visiting the area. "We need to quickly identify where these people are and what their needs are." According to an initial assessment conducted by UN agencies and NGOs, displaced people are in desperate need of food, water and shelter.
According to OCHA, the Sudanese Parliament yesterday declared its support for the military operation in the Abyei area. Defense Minister Abdel-Rahim Hussein announced that in the absence of new arrangements there would be no military withdrawal. In response, a southern minister in the national government, Luka Biong Deng, resigned from his post on 24 May.