4 November 2010 – By land and by air, the UN logistical support effort on behalf of the January 2011 self-determination referendum in Southern Sudan has gone into overdrive.
During a seven-day period ending on 3 November, 39 commercial flights contracted by the United Nations Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED) transported 140,000 kilogrammes of voter registration kits, books and other materials from Juba to the remaining nine state capitals across Southern Sudan, according to UNIRED Deputy Director Eamon O'Mordha.
The registration of voters for the Southern Sudan referendum is scheduled to begin on 15 November and end on the first day of December, and UNIRED and UNMIS are providing support to the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission and its Juba-based bureau.
State referendum high committees have been sorting and packing the voter registration materials with assistance from UNIRED in recent days, and distribution of those materials to the county level will begin on 5 November in most states.
A fleet of 35 trucks will handle most of the cargo destined for registration centres that are accessible by road, and three UNMIS helicopters will move registration materials to designated drop off points that can only be reached by air.
According to Mr. O'Mordha, registration materials will be delivered by air to between 80 and 116 designated drop off points starting on 6 November.
The office furniture, computers, motorcycles and other support equipment that landed in Southern Sudan in mid-October were delivered to state referendum high committees by 25 trucks and three UNMIS helicopters. Distribution of those items to referendum sub-committees at the county level is scheduled to begin on 8 November.
A seasoned veteran of UN elections support operations in a number of foreign countries, Mr. O'Mordha said that the distribution of what he called "a huge amount" of voter registration materials is proceeding according to schedule.
But he also noted that UNIRED had lined up a number of contingency contracts in the event that the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau has difficulties with its distribution efforts.
"There could be some very small delays in terms of scattered, very remote registration centres receiving their materials a day or so late," said Mr. O'Mordha. "But generally speaking, we expect materials to be delivered on time and for registration to start on time."