Help our local partners realise their vision of hope for their communities
On 21 January, the HART team spoke with our partner Bishop Michael Deng Bol, Bishop of Abyei in South Sudan, to receive an update on the situation there.
Abyei is located on the border between South Sudan and Sudan and suffers greatly from a failure in the 2018 Sudan Peace agreement to agree whether the region should be situated in Sudan or in South Sudan. A referendum in 2013 had seen 99.9% of voters wanting to join South Sudan but the vote was never recognised by the international community since it was organised by the people of Abyei themselves without involving the Sudanese Government.
The resulting lack of recognition continues to cause severe problems for the local people, including a lack of access by major aid organisations, the absence of any police force, and regular attacks by militia supported by the Sudanese government. A HART team visiting Abyei in January 2020 were witness to the immediate aftermath of one such attack on the village of Kolom in which 32 villagers were killed, 24 were injured, and 15 children between the ages of 2-12 were abducted, and the local church, clinic and 22 homes were destroyed.
During our conversation, Bishop Michael informed us that these problems not only continue but are getting worse and are compounded by the fact that Abyei is the 2nd worst COVID-affected state in South Sudan. There are no test facilities and people must be taken to juba for testing or treatment – a long and difficult journey.
Meanwhile, food prices are increasing; the security situation is deteriorating, and the government is not providing support. Survivors of the Kolom massacre last year are being told to return to their village, but there is no provision of food, shelter or security and people are unable to cultivate the land. There is no food security. “The poor people are in a terrible situation as they keep dealing with COVID-19 and the lack of stability in Abyei because of attacks,” said Bishop Michael.
The UN International Organisation for Mission is collaborating with the World Health Organisation to assist with COVID-19 measures and to deliver boreholes and some infrastructure, but there is no help with food scarcity issues or with the agricultural programmes that people need. Moreover, due to the lack of political status of the region, international organisations are just not present. HART is unique in offering on-going support where possible.
In conclusion, Bishop Michael shared this message: “Our people are in need. They are not connected to the outside world due to a lack of internet access and are very vulnerable. We are suffering from food insecurity and need your prayer. And we need your advocacy to ensure international support for our people in Abyei and South Sudan. Please support HART’s projects in Abyei as we cannot rely on the resources that we have access to here. We desperately need education for our children, teacher training and teacher salaries. We rely on the children of today to be our future leaders. We must provide education for them.”
The crisis facing civilians in Abyei is complex and delicate. The local population has experienced years of severe suffering caused by armed conflicts, political challenges, and devastating floods. Tragically the instability continues. Nevertheless, HART remains committed to continuing our support for the people. As Bishop Michael says: “Thank you all for that you are doing. We have confidence that with your support, prayers, generosity, and kindness we can do something for the people of Abyei. God bless you.”