Fighting in town of Abyei, Sudan: MSF treats wounded
21 May 2008
Geneva/Khartoum/Juba - Since May 14, fighting between the Sudanese armed forces and the SPLA has devastated the Sudanese 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 centre of Sudan, and its surroundings had, prior to the fighting, a population of approximately 130,000, but almost 60,000 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 those displaced are deplorable; there is an urgent need for shelter, and the nutritional situation is deteriorating quickly. On the day of the first attack, the MSF nutritional centre in Abyei was treating 700 children suffering from malnutrition including 80 admitted prior to the attack, suffering from severe malnutrition. Only some of them have been located since the displacement and are now readmitted into our nutritional programme. The violent fighting in the town, the escape by foot or by truck, and the actual precarious living conditions of the people 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. We are very anxious to hear from some of our medical personnel who could not flee in time," said Inma Vazquez, MSF Head of Mission in Sudan. 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 tools 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 their care. In the Turalei hospital, which has only 40 beds, MSF teams have assembled emergency medical structures under tents. As the attacks continue in Abyei, 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. Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent emergency medical organization that works according to the principles of impartiality and neutrality.