Thousands displaced due to militia fighting around Malakal, North Sudan

Confidence in the peace process is disappearing.
Militia forces, fighting in the south west of Malakal, in North Sudan, have displaced thousands of villagers. Over the last three months, about 13,000 people have fled to Malakal town. In an assessment by MSF last week, another 5,000 displaced were found in three villages south of Malakal. MSF suspects thousands more displaced have fled to other villages. The displaced have been taken in by relatives and the local community. Reportedly, the villages along the westbank of the river Nile are deserted. Houses and crops have been burnt down. The fighting started in January 2004 after one of the leaders of the Shiluk tribe, supported by the Government of Sudan, defected to the southern rebel movement SPLM. The militia groups of the Government of Sudan and the SPLM have been fighting since, particularly around the town of Tonga. Alongside the influx of displaced, MSF has seen an increase of patients in Malakal. The peadiatric ward is particularly crowded. Nine extra tents have been set up over the last few weeks, next to the existing building, to house all patients. At this moment 50% of the TOTAL children in the ward are from displaced families. "It just makes you so sad," said project co-ordinator Fiona Howell. "Last summer, the people were very optimistic about the North-South peace process. But if you ask them now, people are much more cynical. All hope seems to be gone." MSF has been working in Malakal since December 2002 and runs a therapeutic feeding centre and a peadiatric ward, including an intensive care unit. MSF teams are treatsing kala azar and tuberculosis. South east of Malakal, along the Sobat river, MSF works in two outreach locations, Adong and Ulang. In a few weeks, MSF will start doing daily clinics in Nasir, last stop along the Sobat river at the Ethiopian border.