SUDAN (ACN News): The Catholic Church is offering emergency aid in response to a new humanitarian crisis in Sudan caused by a fresh out-break of fighting in the Blue Nile State.
Conflict broke out in Damazin town on September 1 between the Sudanese military, based in Khar-toum, and soldiers aligned to the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) North, following armed attacks on government buildings.
Both sides blamed each other for the attacks and on September 2 the Khartoum government declared a state of emergency in Blue Nile State, in Sudan, bordering the newly created South Sudan.
Khartoum relieved local governor Malik Agar (a member of SPLM North) of his duties.
Bishop Daniel Adwok, Auxiliary for Khartoum, who is episcopal vicar for the pastoral region of Kosti which includes Damazin, has drawn up emergency plans for the Singa parish where thousands of displaced people were gathering.
Writing to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need on September 3, the bishop appealed for funds to assist those fleeing.
ACN has responded to Bishop Adwok’s ugent plea for help with an initial grant of $20,000 to help the Church’s work with the displaced.
Explaining the emergency aid that the Church would be providing, Bishop Adwok said: “The Parish Centre of Singa, as a Church-based organisation, can assist the victims of the Damazin conflict by providing for them food, blankets and maybe transport money for those who would like to travel to Renk or to Khartoum or El Obeid.
“Many civilians have left the town (of Damazin and are) moving in different directions.
“A good number of people however chose the route of the Damazin to Singa/Sennar road.
“Those who managed to reach Singa are now facing the problem of feeding themselves – and in need of blankets, since they left Damazin in haste without taking anything along with them.
“At the moment there are people who have sought refuge in the parish centre in Singa.
“Others have gone to stay with some people in the town but it is becoming rather heavy for those families too to cater for all (of them).
“We hear that only the Sudan Red Crescent operates in the town but it seems their capacity is overwhelmed by the magnitude of the assistance needed.”
“Reports reaching us here say many elderly people who could not go far from the town have stopped about 10km from the town on the same road from Damazin to Singa.
“Others have stopped at Arun which is a bit further, Wad El Nail and Abu Naama.”
The bishop told ACN the Church lacked accurate information but knew a significant number were also heading for the Ethiopian border and the Ingassena Hills.
The United Nations High Commis-sioner for Refugees said it had received reports of at least 16,000 people having crossed the border into Ethiopia.
The Sudan Human Rights Organis-ation in Cairo said 17 people were killed, and tens of thousands are living in basic conditions outside Damazin.
The Blue Nile State is the third border region where fighting has erupted since South Sudan gained independence in July.