South Sudan Fighting: MSF Treating Wounded

Recent updates on MSF's work in South Sudan can be found here:
Southern Sudan: Barely Surviving Amid a Precarious Peace

Geneva/Khartoum/Juba/New York, May 22, 2008 — Since May 14, fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) has devastated the town of Abyei, which has been virtually destroyed. Almost the entire local population has fled to the north and south of the town to seek refuge. Abyei, located in the center of Sudan, and its surroundings, had a population of approximately 130,000 people prior to the fighting. Almost 60,000 people have now been displaced.

Due to the violence, people have had no choice but to abandon their homes and all of their belongings. Now, in the height of the rainy season, the living conditions for the displaced are deplorable; there is an urgent need for shelter, and the nutritional situation is deteriorating quickly. On the day of the attack, the Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) nutritional center in Abyei was treating 700 children suffering from malnutrition, including 80 who were admitted prior to the attack suffering from severe malnutrition. After having to flee the center, only some of the children have been located and are now readmitted into the MSF nutritional program.

The violent fighting in the town, the escape by foot or by truck, and the precarious living conditions can only worsen the medical and nutritional situation. In the zones where MSF teams have been able to deploy, the influx of people also poses a major problem of access to clean water.

“The panic was so widespread that no one had time to take anything or to even think of their own family,” said Inma Vazquez, MSF head of mission in Sudan. “We are very anxious to hear from some of our medical personnel who could not flee in time.”

MSF, which has been working in Abyei Hospital and the surrounding area since 2006, has had to evacuate some of its employees. However, a team of 11 people, including a surgeon and an anaesthetist, have been sent to Turalei and Agok to support the displaced people, bringing surgical equipment and first aid materials to meet the needs of 2,000 families, and water purification materials for some 10,000 people. In these two towns, MSF has taken 114 wounded people into its care. In the Turalei hospital, which only has 40 beds, MSF teams have assembled emergency medical structures under tents.

As the attacks in Abyei continue, increasing numbers of families requiring MSF assistance pour into the areas north and south of the town. Another MSF emergency team is attempting to reach the population gathered in the north towards Muglade and Heglige, where there have also been reports of displaced and injured people.

MSF has been working in Sudan since 1987 and currently works in all areas of the country. MSF is an independent medical humanitarian organization that works according to the principles of impartiality and neutrality.