Fighting has intensified daily on the border between South Sudan and Sudan with heavy artillery bombardments and bombing raids. In recent days the South Sudan town of Bentiu, close to the border with Sudan, has sustained more than 30 bomb attacks.
Despite the violence, World Vision continues to make daily trips to Bentiu from nearby Leer to deliver food aid and other emergency items to a growing displaced population. Edwin Asante, World Vision’s national director for South Sudan, says World Vision staff seek security clearance from the United Nations before entering Bentiu and so far have escaped injury from the bombings.
Edwin says there are no international observers in the border regions, and it’s difficult to get any information on the numbers or condition of civilians who might be trapped. “They are probably going to be stuck there because nobody can move apart from the military,” he says. Meanwhile, the security situation for aid workers is deteriorating.
Last week, two Tearfund staff were abducted in Upper Nile State and four others from Mine Action, Norwegian People’s Aid, and the United Nations were abducted in Unity State. World Vision has given the order to scale down operations in the Upper Nile area after an increase in rebel militia activity.
In an incident unrelated to the fighting, World Vision staff member, Martin Hiltbrunner, escaped serious injury after the plane he was a passenger in skidded off the runway during a crash landing in the South Sudan town of Yambio. Martin was en route to Yambio to supervise the distribution of medical supplies for World Vision.
Edwin Asante says despite the difficulties, World Vision has no plans to close operations especially as the needs will only grow if fighting continues. “We have to maintain at least a minimum presence with the ability to intervene once the aid corridors are open,” he says.