Fighting has resumed in the disputed Abyei region on the border between north and southern Sudan. The population of Abyei and several villages in the area have fled to the south after the widespread looting of shops and homes as well as outbreaks of shooting. Some 60,000 to 80,000 people, mainly women and children, are estimated to be on the run, moving on foot over roads that have been turned to rivers of mud by the onset of the rainy season. The humid weather also bears a heightened risk of diseases that threaten children in particular, such as respiratory infections and diarrhoea.
A struggle to bring relief
Since trading has all but ceased between northern and southern Sudan, bringing relief goods to the displaced population is a struggle, made all the more difficult by the lack of fuel and the catastrophic state of the roads. Communities that have become temporary homes to tens of thousands of refugees have almost nothing to offer, since their resources were stretched beyond capacity even before the crisis flared up once more.
SOS Children’s Villages are safe
The SOS Children’s Village Malakal, in the Upper Nile State, is 250 kilometres away from the north-south border and several hundred kilometres away from Abyei. Nevertheless, the situation is being closely monitored by staff at the Village, as well as by staff from the SOS Children’s Village in Karthoum in the north, with daily telephone contact between the two. The safety of the Village in Malakal was recently reinforced after the SOS Children’s Village was overtaken by a militia group and the children had to be temporarily accommodated in a hotel in the town centre last March.
Food security a concern
SOS staff are especially vigilant regarding food security affecting Malakal. Prices of essential food and non-food items have increase by 30-50 per cent (mostly felt on sugar and wheat). The impact is significant because the market of Malakal relies on commodities supplied from northern Sudan. Traders are reluctant to keep large quantities of supplies in stock in case political unrest leads to looting. In addition to this, widespread fighting over the pending separation of northern and southern Sudan may make fishing, the gathering of water plants and access to local markets increasingly difficult.At present there are two SOS Children's Villages in Sudan, two SOS Youth Homes, one SOS Nursery, two SOS Schools, two Social Centres and two SOS Vocational Training Centres.