The Anglican Alliance has received reports of civilians fleeing from the contested Abyei area in Sudan after Northern troops swept through the town over the weekend. Civilians, many of whom fled on foot, headed further south, towards towns which are also being deserted amidst fears of an imminent attack.
A local church leader sent the following report from the region:
“Arab Sudanese forces attacked Abyei town on Saturday at around 8pm. The whole town was completely set on fire and approximately 20,000 people fled towards the bush and towns in Warrap State. The situation on the ground is worsening. Displaced people and children are seriously affected living under trees in Agok. Civilians are down on streets and in bushes, no food, no shelter, no water and no medical assistance.
“A local school has accommodated 2,800 displaced people despite the fact that there is very limited space for such a huge number of people. There is no other option, the deteriorating conditions force us to accept them in. The majority are still under trees with children, sick people and elderly people. People with communicable diseases are forced to sleep together with healthy people.
“We are now calling for urgent support for civilians, who are lying on the ground without medical attention, shelter, food and water. We are left no choice but to raise the voice of the voiceless for relief assistance”.
The humanitarian situation, already critical, was compounded last night by heavy rainfall and the cancellation of a planned food distribution due to lack of security.
A fertile area claimed by both the North and the South, Abyei was due to vote on its future during a referendum on independence in the South earlier this year. The vote was postponed because of disagreements over eligibility and fears over increasing tension. Continuing ambiguity over the town’s final status has contributed to ongoing friction and conflict.
The Anglican Alliance, which brings together the Anglican family of churches and agencies for development, relief and advocacy, has received requests for advice on how Anglicans can respond to the humanitarian need. Sally Keeble, director, recommends Anglicans contact the government departments in their country with responsibility for foreign affairs and international aid. Ask them, preferably by email, to press for an end to the violence and to support appeals for emergency relief for the victims of this conflict. Then contact your own elected representative where you live and ask them to raise the issue publically and with government.
Anglicans who would like to donate money to the relief efforts in this emergency are encouraged to do so through the Anglican aid agency where they live.
Anglican are also asked to provide prayers of support and sympathy to those who need assistance. Over the coming days, the Alliance will liaise with partner agencies over the crisis.