Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2014, 15:39 GMT

Sudan: IDPs stretch resources to the limit in Akobo

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 9 July 2009
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Sudan: IDPs stretch resources to the limit in Akobo, 9 July 2009, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4a55b2ae1a.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

AKOBO, 9 July 2009 (IRIN) - The fragile food security situation in Akobo, Jonglei State in Southern Sudan, has been exacerbated by a huge influx of displaced people (IDPs) - including 19,000 who fled an attack in Nyandit and other villages by Murle cattle rustlers. Many live within the host community.

"The gap analysis that we have done shows that the needs are greatest among the recent IDPs," David Tolu Lemiso, health project manager at the NGO Nile Hope Development Foundation (NHDF), said. "Out of 3,442 households from Nyandit, 2,050 are still badly in need of help, and that is minus those from Wanding, Kuechar and Ogal payams [sub-divisions]."

More than 17 villages were burnt in the attack, with houses and food stores all going up in flames. At least 200 people died and 28 children were abducted, according to estimates by the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC). A simultaneous attack on Deng Jok payam sent more people fleeing to Akobo.

The villagers escaped the dawn attack with nothing. Aid workers believe many of those who died were killed trying to collect a few belongings, including some food. Others died because they could not swim across the river to safety.

"The IDPs have put a lot of stress on a host community that was already struggling," Simon Buony, education project manager at the NHDF, said. "The closure of the river has made matters worse for everybody."

Locals in Akobo said armed men were still a threat along the Sobat River and had "really punished the Lou Nuer of Akobo". Apart from cutting off trade and food supplies, the blockage since June had also stopped supplies to schools, they told IRIN.

Construction of some classrooms at Akobo township primary school, for example, has stalled because building materials procured from Malakal could not reach Akobo after commercial boats too stopped plying the route.

The school, which has 2,655 pupils in addition to a large number of IDP children, has several classes studying under the few trees in the compound. Bhan Tut, the headmaster, said they had introduced two shifts to try to contain the IDP influx.

Talks amid tensions

Recently, Lise Grande, UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Southern Sudan, met leaders from Upper Nile State and counties along the Sobat, including Baliet, Panyikang, Ulang and Nassir, to discuss the river closure.

"Re-opening the Sobat River is vital if a long-term humanitarian disaster is to be avoided," Iain McDonald, head of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Southern Sudan, said.

Peacekeepers deployed by the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to Akobo told IRIN the situation along the river was calm, but tension and mistrust between the Jikany Nuer in Nassir and the Lou Nuer in Akobo persist.

Some IDPs said if the food situation improved, they could return to their villages. "If I had shelter and food, I would forget the fear [of cattle raiders] and return to Nyandit," one old man told IRIN at the makeshift camp in Akobo peace conference centre.

Akobo County information officer John Ter said the rains were needed so that people could plant crops. "The food donations can never be enough," he told IRIN. "People here used to grow sorghum, maize, beans, okra and pumpkins. They can do that again - if only the rains fall."

Aid workers worry that unsafe roads, more displacement and declining agricultural activity across Southern Sudan could increase the demand for humanitarian assistance over the coming months for both the host and displaced communities in Akobo.

"Last year, Akobo experienced floods; in April some food was burnt in attacks by the Murle, then came the IDPs, then the river blockage and now there is no rain," Ter added, "Only God knows what will happen next."

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