6 June 2011 - UNICEF and partners respond to Abyei Crisis
Juba, Southern Sudan - A large scale humanitarian relief operation is underway in southern Sudan to provide for the needs of an estimated 100,000 civilians displaced by the recent clashes in the disputed territory of Abyei between the Sudan Armed forces and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
“UNICEF has been at the forefront of the response and has swiftly activated its contingency plan for addressing the humanitarian needs of people, particularly children and women, affected by this crisis,” said Dr. Yasmin Haque, Director for UNICEF Southern Sudan Area Programme.
Even in normal times, this is a population with few resources to draw on. For example, health surveys conducted prior to the crisis revealed high levels of malnutrition among young children, a situation that is now certain to be aggravated. This has prompted UNICEF and nutrition partners such as ACF, Medair, GOAL and MSF to begin the immediate screening of young children to identify and treat cases of severe and moderate malnutrition.
To counter the risk of outbreaks of measles or other communicable disease in the cramped sites where displaced people have gathered, WHO and UNICEF with other partners are supporting mass immunization programmes for young children. So far, over 1900 children under the age of five have received measles and polio vaccination while primary health care supplies have been prepositioned to support treatment of common children illnesses at health centres.
Shelter remains a big challenge especially with the heavy downpours of the current rainy season. In places like Mayen Abun, displaced people have taken shelter in a school causing disruption to classes for the children there. In response, tarpaulin sheets and other essentials such as blankets, soap, kitchen kits, sleeping mats and treated mosquito nets are being distributed. 2,700 households have received these kits in one location -- Turalei -- alone. UNICEF has prepositioned stocks to cover 59,000 beneficiaries.
Ensuring the availability of clean water supplies is of paramount importance. Water points are being repaired and fuel provided for distribution systems to provide clean drinking water supplies. Construction of communal latrines has been initiated, while hygiene messages are being disseminated through community radios and other means.
In conflict situations, play and learning activities have a proven ability to help children who have been exposed to violence and conflict. Child friendly spaces have already been established which will allow over 400 children to be provided with psychosocial supportChild friendly spaces have already been established which will allow over 400 children to be provided with psychosocial support. Temporary learning spaces bring immediate benefits too. UNICEF and partner agencies such as Interos and Save the Children are working to assess the educational needs of IDP and host communities, and to identify teachers and sites to establish.
The relief effort faces major logistical and other challenges. Delivery of humanitarian aid is being hampered by the volatile security situation and the poor state of roads, some of which have been washed away by the heavy rains. The prevailing shortage of fuel for transporting the supplies is another important worry.
“This is not going to be easy and it’s probably not going to be quick,” said UNICEF Sudan Representative Nils Kastberg. “Given the likely evolution of the situation, we are looking at a necessary response over a minimum of six months. But this is the sort of challenge that UNICEF and its partners have confronted in many parts of the world, including Sudan, in order to meet the vital needs of children and women affected by crisis. And we will do so again.”