Sudan: In Volatile Abyei, MSF Assists As Thousands Flee Violence

MSF is responding to the needs of people fleeing and caught in the violence that erupted over the weekend.

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is responding to the consequences of fighting in the Abyei region, a contested area between northern and southern Sudan, following violent clashes that began on May 20. The situation in the area remains extremely volatile, and thousands of people have left to escape the fighting. Whole towns have been emptied; people are fleeing their homes with few belongings, and now that the rainy season has started, traveling on roads that have turned to mud.

“We have witnessed a massive movement of people out of Agok town towards the South—especially on Monday night,” said MSF’s head of mission Raphael Gorgeu. “We have seen thousands of people—mainly women and children—carrying bags on their heads, or sitting on mats on the side of the road, exhausted by hours of walking. The populations of both Abyei town and Agok have been displaced and are spread out in several different areas—near Turalei, near Mayen-Abun and on the road to Agok.”

MSF medical teams have been assisting the displaced as they flee the fighting.

“Our teams have been on the roads between Turalei and Agok, where the displaced people are scattered,” said Gorgeu. “There are severe signs of dehydration among many children who are on the move. We are very concerned about the harsh conditions the displaced population has to endure on the roads. Their health condition can deteriorate rapidly if assistance is not delivered promptly. Our efforts are oriented towards delivering assistance in an effective and timely manner.”

The fighting occurred principally in Abyei town. By Saturday, May 21, the entire town lay empty after the population fled their homes. MSF suspended all primary healthcare activities in the town, while MSF’s hospital in Agok, 40 km (24 miles) south of Abyei town, received 50 people wounded in the fighting over the weekend.

Most of the inpatients in Agok were discharged and given two weeks’ rations of ready-to-use therapeutic food; MSF also set up a rehydration point in Agok Hospital. Staff continue to provide basic healthcare services to the population.

MSF is setting up a base in Turalei to support surgical activities in an existing health center. Teams there are also providing medical supplies and basic non-food items, such as shelters, mosquito nets, soap, and plastic sheeting.

MSF has been providing emergency medical humanitarian assistance in Sudan since 1979. MSF currently runs 27 projects across 13 states of the country. MSF has been working in the Abyei region since 2006, providing primary healthcare services in Abyei town, including antenatal care and treatment for malnutrition. In 2010, the team provided 18,534 outpatient consultations. Deliveries and other serious cases are referred to the MSF hospital in Agok, which provides a wide range of services including surgical, maternity, inpatient and outpatient care, a pediatric unit, a tuberculosis ward and a therapeutic feeding center for malnourished children. In 2010, there were 31,199 outpatient consultations. In January 2011, MSF opened a fully functioning operating theater in Agok Hospital.