At least 33 people, including women and children, were killed and an unknown number wounded during the attack in Kolom, nine kilometres from Abyei town last Wednesday. It is reported that an unknown number of children were abducted during the incident.
“We are deeply saddened by the loss of life as a consequence of the events which have taken place in Kolom over the last week,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Chief of Mission in South Sudan. “We work with these communities and it is heart-breaking to witness what happened.”
A rapid interagency assessment conducted on 24 January revealed that nearly 4,000 people fled to Abyei town. The IOM missions in South Sudan and Sudan in partnership with the UN and international humanitarian partners have initiated a response. Seventy households were provided with immediate humanitarian assistance, such as blankets, bed sheets and sleeping mats, jerricans, soap, plastic tarpaulins and rubber ropes for constructing temporary shelters.
However, there are roughly 3,600 people at five other locations in Abyei town who still require urgent assistance. With support from the Core Pipeline Unit, IOM South Sudan’s central repository of relief supplies, more relief items including mosquito nets and solar lamps are being sent from Juba to Abyei by air and road this week. IOM is also coordinating water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) assistance and started the construction of emergency latrines at Abyei boys secondary school where the majority of an estimated 230 households from Kolom are sheltering.
“In situations like these, we know that people flee in different directions,” said Asar Ul Haq, IOM South Sudan Programme Coordinator. “So far, our immediate response has only reached families displaced in Abyei centre, but we intend to support all households affected by this tragedy and the findings from the joint assessment will shed light on what help is needed, and where.”
IOM has been working in the four counties that form the Abyei ‘box’ since 2010, responding to humanitarian emergencies and working with local communities, primarily the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka, to mitigate conflict and build social cohesion between the two groups.
Due to long standing tensions, violent clashes between the agro-pastoralist Ngok Dinka and the nomadic cattle herding Misseryia, whose seasonal grazing routes run through Abyei, have led to several waves of displacement of the Ngok Dinka community and the destruction of public infrastructure.
“The recent attacks cast a dark cloud over efforts to hold a cattle migration conference intended to search for common ground for the amicable co-existence of the Misseriya and Ngok-Dinka, and to find solutions to mitigate fighting over the migration corridor and cattle raiding,” said Chauzy.
IOM South Sudan transitional and recovery activities including flood response to roughly 8,000 households have had to temporarily halt.
“This attack is a huge concern as it also sets back other lifesaving activities in Abyei region,” Chauzy said.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).
IOM staff in South Sudan prepare clothing and household items for distribution to survivors of the January 22 attack on the town of Kolom that claimed the lives of 33 people and forced thousands of others to flee to neighbouring Abyei town. Photo: IOM 2020