Situation Critical for Displaced in South Sudan's Aweil
The situation for thousands of new arrivals in the South Sudan garrison town of Aweil is critical, an IRC team reports. The people, most of whom have returned from North Sudan following the recent north-south peace agreement, camp on grass mats in extremely unsanitary conditions. Poor harvests in the area have also raised fears of a potential food crisis.
“An immediate solution is needed for the people in Aweil,” said IRC’s director for South Sudan, Linda Janmaat who led the team. “And with the onset of the rains next month their situation will become even more urgent.”
The IRC team arrived in Aweil earlier this week after getting a first-ever green light to cross the demarcation line between rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan. The team traveled from the SPLM-controlled Aweil East County to the garrison town through a swampy, mine-ridden no-man’s land separating the communities.
“The possibility of traveling between these areas enables us to bring in urgent supplies from the SPLA-controlled market town of Warawar,” Janmaat said.
The increased access will also make it possible for the IRC to set up three mobile health teams that will provide urgently needed health services to the increasing number of people who make the long journey through the desolate territory on either side of the former confrontation line.
The IRC is already supporting a network of primary health care facilities in the area. Last year three small health teams were deployed in villages just south of the SPLM checkpoints, where hundreds of returnees and displaced from the war in Darfur add to pressure on already scarce resources. At the beginning of 2005, the clinics vaccinated over 600 children and treated some 1,000 people suffering from malaria, diarrhea and respiratory infections.
More and more people are expected to return to South Sudan following the peace agreement, requiring a massive relief effort by the humanitarian community.