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Supplies run low in Sudan's embattled border regions

Food, fuel, and water are all running dangerously low in Sudanese villages sheltering the tens of thousands of people who fled fighting around the disputed border town of Abyei.

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“It is wrong according to our procedures to stay in a place until we run out of fuel. But here we had no choice,” said one staff member. A few days later, as they reach the bottom of that drum, they are facing the same predicament and have to adjust their response as a result.

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“The North was blockading the South in preparation for [the recent offensive in] Abyei,” said the staff member, articulating a sentiment that is difficult to prove but is nonetheless widely believed.

Even as they distribute bags of sorgum and cans of cooking oil to the displaced, aid workers themselves find little to eat. “The past few nights, by the time we’ve gotten back to town, the couple of restaurants we usually try have run out of food. I’ve been running on a few slices of bread pretty much since I got here,” said an aid worker living in Wunrok, the town neighboring Turalei. In addition to the huge shipments of food and supplies to distribute, groups are also transporting in bottled water for their staff.

At the time of a humanitarian crisis, attention on the challenges facing aid workers may seem misplaced, but it illustrates the desperation of a situation to understand that even those sent to provide services are running low on the basics.

The current hindrances don’t appear to be easing soon. While some of the displaced people are moving home to Agok, tens of thousands from the area now occupied by the northern army will remain vulnerable and dependent on aid for potentially many months to come. Strains on the host communities will likely become more acute so long as the de facto economic blockade continues. The rainy season is just beginning, and the UN humanitarian coordination agency reported that aid groups are positioning additional supplies in anticipation that some of the communities they’re currently serving may soon become isolated as the rains wash out roads. Those running logistics for the humanitarian response are also keeping a watchful eye just to the east, where the southern militia leader Peter Gatdet is operating. The main road from Turalei to Agok, which so many aid convoys need to use, passes perilously close to Mayom County, where Gatdet’s forces have been causing havoc.

“With emergency response, you never have perfect conditions,” said a staff member of a UN agency. “But this one is quite a challenge.”

Laura Heaton blogs for the Enough Project at Enough Said.

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