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WHO Begins Health Relief In Disputed Abyei, Sudan

UN agency begins health relief efforts in disputed Sudanese town of Abyei

2 July 2008 - The United Nations health agency has started preparations for the expected return of tens of thousands of displaced people to their homes in the disputed central Sudanese town of Abyei.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said in a media statement that it is focusing on restoring basic health services for the returnees and controlling the health risks for both the returnees and the people still displaced after deadly fighting erupted in May.

Infectious disease outbreaks, a lack of safe drinking water and rising rates of malnutrition are among the biggest concerns for both WHO and its partner aid agencies.

Almost 60,000 people fled Abyei, which lies at the centre of an oil-rich area that is still disputed despite the 2005 official end to the long-running north-south civil war in Sudan, as a result of the clashes between Government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM).

Early last month the two sides signed a pact aimed at stopping violence in Abyei and encouraging widespread returns from nearby villages and makeshift settlements, and WHO said calm has been restored to the town.

WHO's top official in Sudan, Mohammed Abdur Rab, has also visited Abyei recently to assess the scale and type of relief needs of the local population.

ENDS

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