Jonglei State, News

Over 18,000 returnees in dire need

By Charles K Mark

South Sudanese returnees from neighboring countries, especially Ethiopia and Sudan, are in dire humanitarian situation.

Returnees in Akobo County in Jonglei state lack food and shelter since their arrival.

The re-displaced South Sudanese wonder how homecoming can again turn into another disaster.

UN Mission field office delegates in Jonglei state said more than 18,000 returnees who fled violence from the neighboring have arrived their homeland.

According to a press release by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) an estimated 95 percent more returnees are expected to arrive from Sudan but from Ethiopia.

A returnee from Ethiopia identified as Simon Nyang Deng told the delegates that many people trek to Akobo due to ethnically violence within refugee camps in the Ethiopian Gambella region.

“Men are being targeted by the warring communities. There is no food in the camp, but plenty of inter-communal fighting and lots of burglaries.” Nyang Deng said.

“I came here hoping for humanitarian assistance, and maybe relatives will be able to pay for my children to travel here as well,” he added.

However, Nyang complained that his two wives and twelve children are still stuck in Ethiopia’s conflict zone, as he found the ten-day trek to be riskier for him and the entire family.

Mr. Nyang and other returnees are staying at three makeshift camps in town, one of which is the headquarters of the Diocese of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan in Akobo.

Though the UNMISS’s patrolling peacekeepers provide security and protection, there is a dire and urgent need for food and adequate shelter for the growing numbers of returnees.

Nyajuba Nyang, a re-displaced woman who fled to Ethiopia from South Sudan in 2013, said she lost two of her seven children while on her way to South Sudan.

She echoed a call for timely humanitarian intervention by the international community in terms of food and shelter.

People living in refugee camps in Ethiopia are desperately fleeing the camps due to rising inter-communal and ethnically motivated fighting, as revealed by Simon Nyang Deng.

He explained that besides the fatal violence, the prevailing insecurity also means that humanitarian assistance cannot reach its destination, a clear reason for a severe shortage of food.

“Women won’t passively accept seeing their children die.” They will go outside the camps to look for food, but when they do so, many have been attacked, and some of them have been killed,” explained Nyang.

Geetha Pious, Head of the UNMISS Field Office for Jonglei State and the Greater Pibor Administrative Area, led the fact-finding delegation to Akobo.

Just like Nyajuba Nyang, Geetha appealed to the government and the international community to mitigate the dire humanitarian situation of the returnees, most of whom are women and children.

“Some of the South Sudanese arriving from Sudan are coming home for the first time since independence [in 2011]. Many returnees are calling this their ‘final destination, and yet here they are, resettling in open places without sufficient food or shelter,” noted Geetha Pious,

She added that resources in South Sudan were already scarce before the influx of refugees coming back from neighboring countries.

The majority of those returning come from Sudan, most of whose first arrival is at the border town of Renk.

According to the latest figures, more than 230,000 people have reached Renk from Sudan, with the overwhelming majority being South Sudanese.




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