24 November - The Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission had reported 18,213 state-organized returns to Unity State, with buses continuing to arrive, a top UNMIS official said today in Khartoum.
Speaking at a mission press conference, Georg Charpentier, UN Resident Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, said the UN and its partners, in collaboration with national and state authorities, had enhanced monitoring of internally displaced person (IDP) departures in the north as well as key transit hubs and return areas.
The first return convoys to Abyei, organized by the Abyei Area Administration, had departed from Blue Nile and Sennar states on 19 November and from Khartoum the next day, with an estimated total of about 2,000 returnees, the Resident Coordinator said.
At the transit hub of Kosti, White Nile State, he noted that some 5,307 spontaneous returns had been observed in November – roughly double the average for the same period in previous years.
“The humanitarian country team has so far been able to respond adequately to these returns, in support to government efforts, through implementation of the inter-agency contingency plan and thanks to pre-positioning of core supplies,” Mr. Charpentier said.
The country team was providing targeted assistance in return areas, focusing on the usual packages of food and other necessities, he said. But it was also concentrating on livelihoods and services to encourage reintegration into communities, so that conditions of dependency or new IDP camps could be avoided.
“The … country team has welcomed the commitment of authorities in the north and the south to a phased approach to returns, in line with absorptive capacity in return areas, and delinked from any political consideration tied to the referenda,” the Resident Coordinator added.
[Southerners are set to vote on 9 January 2011 in a referendum on continued unity with the north or secession, and people in the Abyei Area on whether to join the north or south.]
Mr. Charpentier observed that statements made recently by senior government officials on the status of northerners in the south and southerners in the north after the referenda had been encouraging and should continue to be so.
The UN and its partners were working closely to ensure support for any uncertainty related to outstanding benchmarks of the country’s peace accord, Mr. Charpentier said, including the upcoming referenda.
“Supplies in key life-saving sectors, including health, nutrition, water and food are being procured and pre-positioned in several places and in line with potential needs,” he said, adding that the governments in both north and south had been called on to ensure unhindered humanitarian access to vulnerable people.
Donors had been called on to provide $63 million, which would be an advance on the 2011 Humanitarian Action Plan, said the Resident Coordinator. “Some donors have already responded in terms of pledges, but further action is necessary to turn these pledges into concrete funding.”