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Sortony, North Darfur, under siege - displaced urged to leave

May 30 - 2016 KABKABIYA
Sortony, near the Unamid team site in Kabkabiya, viewed from a mountain (RD)
Sortony, near the Unamid team site in Kabkabiya, viewed from a mountain (RD)

Sortony, that accommodates tens of thousands of displaced people in North Darfur, remains cut-off from transport by militiamen who have blocked the road to Kabkabiya for consecutive weeks. The UN has begun to operate flights from El Fasher to Sortony.

“The siege on Sortony has made movement to and from Kabkabiya very difficult, too,” the coordinator of the camps in the northern locality told Radio Dabanga. Approximately 22,600 people displaced from Jebel Marra have taken shelter adjacent to the Unamid based in Sortony, the UN said last week.

Militant groups, however, have blocked all transport to Sortony, including trucks that carry drinking water, food rations, and relief items. People in Sortony have not received the monthly food rations for April and May and lack plastic sheets and tents, the coordinator reported.

“Hundreds of displaced people, most of them patients and students, need to leave the camp to Kabkabiya,” the coordinator stressed. “The security and humanitarian situation at the camp may only worsen with the coming rainy season.”

He called upon local and state government authorities, as well as Unamid to quickly intervene and try to lift the militiamen's siege on the camp.

Tensions have escalated between armed locals and the newly displaced community in Sortony, who have fled the fighting between the Sudanese government forces and the armed rebels in Jebel Marra in the past months. On 9 May militants killed six displaced people in an attack on Sortony.

The attackers then established a blockade on the Kabkabiya road, an essential route for the provision of water and humanitarian aid. A lack of drinking water, which is difficult to obtain in Sortony, now threatens the displaced population as tankers of Unamid and aid organisations are not allowed to enter the camp.

First flight to Sortony

In addition, an overland journey from Kabkabiya to Sortony may take up to six hours because of poor roads. On 22 May 2016, the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) conducted a reconnaissance flight to Sortony and found the helipad in the area suitable for flights. UNHAS air operations to Sortony are now open and the provisional schedule includes direct El Fasher-Sortony-El Fasher flights on Sundays and Mondays, the UN's humanitarian office (OCHA) reported last week.

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