IRC begins emergency medical assistance for thousands in Southern Sudan who fled recent Sudanese army bombings
An International Rescue Committee (IRC) medical team is delivering health care services to more than 3,500 newly displaced people, mostly women and children, who took refuge in Northern Bahr el Ghazal after their villages along the north-south border were hit by Sudanese army bombers.
The displaced started crossing into North Aweil after the attack on November 12 and have been arriving in waves at a makeshift camp in the town of Jaac – following a nearly two day journey across rivers and through thick forest. The new arrivals are ethnic Dinka, originally from this area, who had been living in border villages in South Darfur.
The IRC’s mobile medical team launched a vaccination campaign for children under five, women of child-bearing age and pregnant women last week that continues this week. They are also treating the displaced for upper respiratory tract infections, malaria and diarrhea.
“We’re vaccinating hundreds of children against polio, diphtheria, TB and measles, after learning that none had been previously immunized,” says the IRC’s Dr. Vincent Kahi. “Epidemics can spread quickly among displaced populations, so this is an easy intervention that saves lives.”
Dr. Kahi says the area remains tense. During a multi-agency needs assessment last week, Sudanese army planes circled above, but there was no attack.
“The overflying planes caused additional fear and alarm among a group already traumatized by last month’s bombings,” says Dr. Kahi.
The IRC plans to continue emergency medical services for the displaced while continuing maternal and primary health care services for the host population. Other groups are distributing food and household supplies.
“The latest violence and displacement are troubling,” says Susan Purdin, the IRC’s country director in southern Sudan. “With the referendum a month away, these incidents raise political tension and distrust on both sides of the border.”
Purdin says the IRC has been preparing for all scenarios – putting contingency plans in place in the event of violent outbreaks that cause modest or significant displacement.
“We’re hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” Purdin says. “However, we don’t believe that small-scale incidents will impact the outcome. Sadly, localized violence has become part of life in Southern Sudan.”
For more information or interviews, contact Sophia Mwangi in Nairobi, 254 737 800 028, or Melissa Winkler in New York, 1 212 551 0972 or 646 734 0305.