Southern Sudan Is Turning Desperate

50,000 Famished Refugees Face Diseases

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RUMBEK, Sudan, MAR. 11, 2001 ( War-weary southern Sudan is suffering from food shortages, spreading diseases and a lack of water, Bishop Cesare Mazzolari of Rumbek told the Vatican missionary agency Fides.

«More than a million Sudanese war victims, in an area 300 by 200 kilometers, from Mayen Abun to Nyamiell, are living in utter poverty and isolation, in danger of dying of hunger or diseases such as cholera, malaria, etc.,» the bishop said. «Scabies is taking the lives of many, especially children, weak from lack of food.»

What the displaced people lack most is water, but they are too weak to reach the nearest wells about two miles away. «The situation is very serious,» he said. «There is urgent need of water, food, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, jerrycans, pots and pans. The international community appears to ignore this tragedy.»

The bishop added: «I traveled in the vast area around Malwalkon and saw only one NGO camp in Adwemko with a distribution center [and] a small feeding point set up.»

«Otherwise,» he continued, «people are camped in deserted areas in small pyramidal grass structures, one and a half meters tall and one meter in circular diameter, crowded with mothers and children. Most of the over 50,000 people I visited in the area are displaced from the railroad area and the front line in the forest southwest of Malwalkon. These people are on the brink of death, and the international community is not aware of them.»

On March 1 the bishop toured a number of refugee camps, among them: Akwemko with 2,800 homeless people; Ticok with 2,600 people; Maniel with 1,200 mostly women and children; Burrap with 3,500; Pariak with 3,800. An additional 25,000 displaced people are around Wanyjok, about three and a half miles from Malwalkon.

«Hunger prevails,» the bishop stressed. «There is no fire burning outside their huts because there is no cooking being done. They have no food to cook, not even for the children.»

«The diocese is willing to do a complementary role in food distribution to the poorest, the blind, invalids, lepers, while the main task of food distribution will have to be continued through the World Food Program,» Bishop Mazzolari concluded.

The fighting is between pro-Khartoum mercenary troops and the southern Sudan separatists military. The mercenaries recently withdrew to positions 100 kilometers north of Waw. As they go, they steal food and animals, and burn homes and crops.

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