Displaced Southern Sudanese Begin to Journey Home; Crisis in Western Darfur Deteriorates
Throughout Sudan, thousands of people, displaced for as many as 21 years by civil war, are beginning to return to their decimated communities in the southern part of the country. The growing influx was triggered by a long-awaited peace agreement that was signed in January, 2005.
In Bahr el Ghazal, a region which saw some of the longest and harshest fighting in the war, uprooted families are traveling for days and risking the threat of landmines to come home to their shattered villages.
The IRC’s Amy Keith traveled to western Bahr el Ghazal in May and found villages in complete decay. “Houses and farms are destroyed and reclaimed by the jungle, water pumps are broken and health clinics and schools have been abandoned or demolished.” She says returnees are moving back into their roofless homes, living in plastic sheet tents on the grounds of old homes, or moving into the ruins of buildings.
In war-affected villages across southern Sudan, the IRC is helping such communities rebuild, including the Western Bahr el Ghazal village of Deim Zubair, where the IRC has taken the lead in organizing relief efforts.
“Thousands of refugees have flooded into this desolate village from camps in other parts of Sudan and the Central African Republic,” says Keith. “Our teams are coordinating the distribution of food, plastic sheeting for shelter, cooking utensils, buckets, jerry cans and clothes. We’re also rehabilitating pumps in order to restore the water supply, while partner groups are constructing latrines and providing medical care.”
However, with humanitarian aid resources extremely limited, Keith says thousands of other towns and villages have yet to be assisted. “We suspect that many returnees are going to remain in places like Deim Zubair until help is available in their home villages.”
Active in Sudan for more than 20 years, the IRC continues to provide relief, recovery and development programs in other regions. In the capital Khartoum, we support pre-school programs for children and income-generation activities for mothers in four displacement camps. In the Nuba Mountains, the IRC helps farmers restore their livelihoods, while extensive water and sanitation assistance is provided in Upper Nile and Red Sea States. Our primary health care training schools graduate dozens of health care workers annually in the southern towns of Billing and Ganyliel.
Meanwhile, farther west in Sudan’s Darfur region, the crisis continues to deteriorate, with more than 300,000 lives lost and 2.4 million people displaced. The IRC is steadily increasing its vital assistance to nearly 880,000 Sudanese in North, South and West Darfur.