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Abyei crisis: 40,000 children flee violence

The current crisis in Abyei region threatens the stability of an already fragile agreement between northern and southern Sudan, with many people on the ground nervous that it will trigger a wider conflict.

The impact on the children in Abyei is devastating.

So far Save the Children estimates that up to 40,000 children have fled the sudden flare-up of violence. Many will be separated from their families and will witness things no child should ever have to see.

Threat of violence

Awen, 70,  with her grandchildren in Abyei
Awen, 70, with her grandchildren in Abyei

I was in Abyei a few weeks ago and was taken aback at the constant threat of violence that seemed to linger in the air, even then.

I spoke to Awen, a 70-year-old grandmother who told me, “We’re worried and afraid. The children can’t play outside like they are used to. Sometimes we move between different relatives’ villages, but then it becomes difficult to grow things. The children then don’t get enough to eat. We must also be prepared to flee.”

Almost certainly Awen and her family have now been forced to flee.

The region is being sieged by armed groups, militias and government forces.

The ferocity and unpredictability of the conflict makes it far too dangerous for Save the Children to operate. This needs to change.

We know there will be a massive need within Abyei and the nearby areas for food, shelter and child protection.

Children terrified

Children will be deeply affected by what they have seen and heard, terrified by all the gunfire and homes burning. We are already responding on the ground throughout northern and southern Sudan, but we urgently need safe humanitarian access to Abyei.

When I was previously in Abyei I took photo after photo, with children eagerly posing, laughing and jumping around.

Then I met Akout who was eight years old. She didn’t want to pose, and she didn’t want to smile. She said “I’m afraid. I’m afraid of getting killed.”

Save the Children has launched an appeal for the emergency response in southern Sudan.

Find out more about how we’re helping in southern Sudan

This post was written by Kristina Granqvist, the Senior Communications Advisor for Sudan.

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