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Dr Williams fears for refugees

12 October 2012


Stretched: an aerial view of Yida, the largest refugee camp in South Sudan, which is home to more than 64,000 people

Stretched: an aerial view of Yida, the largest refugee camp in South Sudan, which is home to more than 64,000 people

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has expressed his fear for the plight of more than 850,000 people who have been displaced from their homes by conflict in South Kordofan and Blue Nile: areas in Sudan near the border with South Sudan.

Speaking on Tuesday after a meeting with the Bishop of Kadugli, South Kordofan, the Rt Revd Andudu Adam Elnail, Dr Williams said: "The international community needs to wake up to the gravity of the situation. All parties need to work together to find practical ways to get help to those most in need."

The leaders of Sudan and South Sudan signed a deal on 27 September to secure their shared border and boost co-operation and trade, opening the way for South Sudan to resume the export of oil through Sudan. The agreements came after three weeks of negotiations in Ethiopia, mediated by the African Union.

The UN Security Council welcomed the deal as a "major breakthrough" for peace. Some issues remain unresolved, however, including the disputed territory of Abeyi, and the Security Council expressed concern about the worsening humanitarian situation in South Kordofan and Blue Nile, where fighting between the Sudanese army and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement continues.

Dr Mukesh Kapila, of the Aegis Trust, a former UN resident co-ordinator in Sudan, who has described how women and children in South Kordofan have had to flee from Sudanese government bombers, believes that that the situation there is "the world's worst forgotten crisis" ( News, 6 July).

Two days before the agreement was signed, the UN refugee agency UNHCR reported that about 100 refugees a day were arriving in the town of Yida, in South Sudan, after fleeing South Kordofan.

A spokeswoman for the UNHCR, Melissa Fleming, said that it was "extremely concerned" about the safety of the settlement, which is expected to grow from about 62,000 to 80,000 inhabitants by the end of the year. The high mortality rates among refugees remain a cause for concern.

On Friday, the agency appealed for contributions from the international community, after it warned that it was facing an "unprecedented" combination of crises in Syria, Mali, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The Episcopal News Service reports that 4000 members of the diocese of Kadugli now reside in Yida camp. They have four churches that are "made up of many tribes worshipping together. They support one another in prayer." Members with medical training have set up a free clinic at the camp, and refugees have also set up community schools with volunteer teachers.

Last week, the diocese of Rejaf launched an appeal to provide a package of cooking utensils, canvas, and hand tools to 200 families who have arrived in South Sudan from Sudan and been given plots of land in Kuda, just north of the South Sudanese capital, Juba. For details visit the website aco.org.

The Anglican Communion News Service reported yesterday that it had received "first hand information on the emergency in Unity State, South Sudan. . . from Bishop Gattek from the Benitu Area Diocese, of the Episcopal Church of Sudan". Bishop Gattek "asks Anglicans around the Communion for prayers and support for communities that have suffered so much and are trying to find ways forward in the new state of South Sudan", it said.

South Sudan airlift. Almost 500 Christians have so far been airlifted to South Sudan as part of an operation by Barnabas Aid to evacuate 2000 women and children from Sudan ( News, 28 September). The first flight, on 19 September, was followed by further airlifts on 30 September, and on Tuesday of last week.

On Thursday of last week, the charity said that the mission, which was predicted to require 12 flights, would be on hold for three weeks, as airlines in Sudan are occupied with the transportation of Muslim pilgrims to Mecca for the haj. Since the beginning of this year, about 123,000 people have returned to South Sudan from Sudan, the UN's Office for the Organisation of Humanitarian Affairs estimates.


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