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Abyei: Food scarcity hits thousands of displaced people

February 9, 2013 (JUBA) - A member of South Sudan’s ruling party (SPLM) has accused the United Nations of allegedly failing to provide relief assistance to thousands of displaced people in the disputed Abyei region.

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Internally displaced people gather in Turalei, in the south’s Twic county, about 130 km (80 miles) from Abyei town, May 27, 2011. (Reuters)

Luka Biong Deng, the co-chair of the Abyei Joint Oversight Committee (AJOC), also expressed fears that the population in the region were facing likely death should the situation remain unaddressed.

“The UN coordinator in Abyei is [not] only unable to act, but he is unwilling to act. Food and non-food items are in abundance in Abyei, but returnees may die simply because of lack of food and shelter. People of Abyei may be better off without [the] UN system that is unable to act”, Deng told Sudan Tribune Saturday.

Deng, who is currently visiting the area to acquaint himself with the humanitarian situation, also held several meetings with some of the returnees in the disputed oil-producing region.

“The chiefs have not only assisted the return of the returnees, but received them with whatever little they have and helped them to go to their original places, where they will start from scratch”, Deng said by phone.

Deng also met officials from the UN World Food Programme (WFP), International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and US Agency for International Development (USAID), as well officials from the South Sudanese government.

“It is apparent that no humanitarian assistance is being provided to the returnees despite availability of such assistance in Abyei. Despite good efforts by USAID and [the] Dutch and others to assist, the UN system in Abyei will not deliver such good intentions to the people of Abyei who have suffered [a] great deal,” he said.

There is no better time than now for the international community to show their support to the people of Abyei, he added.

The AJOC co-chair, however, lauded the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in the area, describing it as the “only hope” that the people of Abyei see in the UN.

ABYEI REFERENDUM

The African Union High-Level Implementation Panel (AUHIP), led by former South African president Thabo Mbeki, has recommended that should the two sides fail to come to a political agreement over the status of Abyei, a referendum be held in October involving those resident in the area.

The status of Abyei was scheduled to have been resolved in a referendum over two years ago, but differences between Juba and Khartoum over who was legible to vote caused it to be delayed. The situation was further complicated when the Sudanese army (SAF) forcibly took control of the area in May 2011 ahead of South Sudan’s independence.

At least 110,000 people were forced to flee their homes following SAF’s invasion of the region.

(ST)