Sudanese Refugees in Danger of Dying of Thirst

Bishop Appeals to UNICEF in Particular for Help

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RUMBEK, Sudan, JAN. 10, 2002 (ZENIT.orgFides).- A bishop in southern Sudan appealed to the international community on behalf of thousands of refugees families who might soon die of thirst.

“The situation is disastrous … more than 7,000 families may die for lack of water in Aweil county,” Rumbek Bishop Cesare Mazzolari told the Vatican agency Fides. The Comboni missionary made an appeal for boreholes to be dug in his region.

“Many families consist of one very young mother and one or two little children,” the bishop said. “They fled from Raga and other areas in the north to avoid being taken as slaves. They need water, food and clothing. At the moment, they live on leaves and have to walk two hours to find a little water.”

Some 7,600 refugees are camped in Marial Bai, Chelkou, Nyamlell, Makuei, Akuem, Gok Machar and Marol Deng Geng. The area is also receiving returnees from abduction from other northern areas, including Mabior, Arial, Weweil, Bahr el Arab and along the railway line where government forces and Arab militias have been staging raids on civilians.

The bishop of Rumbek appealed to UNICEF to dig boreholes in the area. “UNICEF already has a project for wells for child-soldiers´ rehabilitation camps,” he said. “I have asked them to dig water holes also for Church-run schools towards which internally displaced persons are now also flocking.”

Bishop Mazzolari says UNICEF´s intervention is urgently needed because displaced persons are flooding in after fleeing from Raga in western Bahr el Ghazal where intense fighting has been going on since October, when government forces retook the strategic town of Raga from the rebel SPLA.

Following the town’s recapture, Khartoum launched an intense military campaign to flush out the SPLA. The result has been a mass exodus of civilians to northern Bahr el Ghazal and Western Equatoria.

The bishop says he is confident that UNICEF will help but action must be swift. “Work will start in two weeks time, but in the meantime how many will die of thirst?” he asked.

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