Just over a year ago 40,000 people fled intense fighting that almost destroyed the town of Abyei, which sits on the border between the north and south of Sudan. This week, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled on the border dispute for the Abyei area.

Photo: Frédéric Baldini, MSF | MSF clinic near Agok, 2008. For over a year now, people displaced by violent events that happened around Abyei in May 2008 have been living in shelters and depending on international aid for their survival.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been working in Abyei hospital since 2006. Following violence in May last year an MSF emergency team responded to the needs of the displaced, 20,000 to 30,000 of whom fled south from Abyei town to the village of Agok. “A few thousand came back to Abyei but most of the displaced don’t dare to stay overnight and are still living scattered around Agok in the bush. People fear that fighting might erupt again in their town,” says Volker Lankow, MSF’s field coordinator in Abyei. MSF is providing medical care through fixed clinics in Agok and Abyei and is running six mobile clinics in 12 locations near the two towns. There are 117 Sudanese staff along with nine expatriates providing medical consultations to more than 2, 300 people a month.

Photo: Frédéric Baldini, MSF | MSF clinic near Agok, 2008.

“We are providing primary healthcare and obstetric care to the displaced people and nutritional support, including running an inpatient therapeutic feeding centre. Malnutrition is a big concern,” explains Lankow, “as it’s currently the hunger-gap time of year in Sudan.” Helle is a nurse overseeing the feeding program for the project. “We are starting to see adults being treated for malnutrition, this is new,” says Helle. “However children under five are still the most affected by the lack of food. When I began working here we were treating 275 malnourished children, but now five months later it has doubled to more than 540 children.”

Photo: Frédéric Baldini, MSF | MSF clinic near Agok, 2008.

For over a year now the displaced people have been living in shelters and depending on international aid for their survival. Their medical problems mainly consist of respiratory tract infections, malnutrition, diarrhea and malaria. “We just hope that everything will be fine in the coming weeks. The displaced are already living in a precarious situation, I don’t want to think about them having to flee again,” says Lankow. In 2008, MSF provided 8,950 outpatient consultations at the hospital in Abyei and more than 1,200 severely malnourished children were treated. In 2009 a reproductive health program, providing antenatal care and safe deliveries, was started in the Abyei region.

Related News & Publications