KHARTOUM, Sudan (Sudanow.info) - the International Organization for Migration IOM has said it might be forced out of the market in south Sudan because of lack of funds, leaving hundreds of displaced to their fate.
A press release by the IOM received by Sudanow.info in Khartoum on Friday said a barge carrying some 2,500 southern Sudanese who returned from the north after separation, June 2011, and who stayed in Renk for months, might be the last group it could ferry out of the displaced persons camps, leaving thousands others in the open.
“As a convoy of river barges leaves Renk in South Sudan's Upper Nile State today, carrying over 2,500 vulnerable South Sudanese returnees who have been stranded in the town for months, the fate of more than 16,000 others hangs in balance as a shortage of funds may force IOM to suspend operations to help them.” The organization said in its statement Friday.
It explained the presence of such a multitude of south civilians in ranks, saying due to insecurity along the border with Sudan earlier this year and the onset of the rainy season, most South Sudan-bound returnees continue to enter the country through the town of Renk, from where they need help to get back to their areas of origin.
"With over 20,000 stranded returnees throughout South Sudan, the majority of whom are located in Renk, where all access with the exception of the Nile river is cut off, it is critical that onward transport assistance is provided if we are to avoid multiple humanitarian crises at transit points," the organization quoted Vincent Houver, IOM South Sudan Chief of Mission as lamenting.
The release said IOM has appealed for US $45,903,000 to provide assistance to stranded and vulnerable returnees within South Sudan, including providing transport, non-food and medical assistance. “The appeal has only been 12% funded, leaving a funding gap of US $ 40,403,000.”It regretted.
Transport within South Sudan is severely hampered by lack of all-weather roads and by the shortage of transport. Once the returnees enter South Sudan, they can remain stranded at their points of entry for several months waiting for transport. From Renk, it is an arduous three-week journey by barge to reach Juba, south Sudan’s capital.
In Renk, where IOM has provided over 21,000 medical consultations to returnees, security and living conditions have steadily deteriorated, following the closure of the Sudan-South Sudan border earlier in the year. This resulted in dwindling supplies of food and water, and escalating tensions between host and return communities.
The organization said since the beginning of 2012, an estimated 116,000 people have returned to South Sudan from Sudan. In the past year, IOM, which co-chairs the emergency returns sector, has helped to transport 50,000 stranded returnees by river barges, boats, buses, trains and planes to their final destinations.
IOM is responsible for the overall coordination of the humanitarian response in Renk. With its humanitarian partners, it is involved in the distribution of non-food relief items and emergency shelter materials, the provision of emergency healthcare services, and the provision of water and sanitation services.
According to the release the international organization is currently preparing to help another group of 2,500 returnees to leave Renk for Juba, from where most will continue to the country's north-western provinces by road. But its funding for transport will be entirely depleted by the beginning of September, putting into question the future of such operations.
"At least 40,000 South Sudanese nationals in Khartoum and Kosti in Sudan are also waiting for return assistance. But at this point we are being forced to consider the suspension of all return transport operations within the next two months, unless new funding is secured," the release quoted Houver as saying.