21 December 2010 -- Over 2,500 southerners who arrived in Malakal from North Sudan three weeks ago are stranded in the Upper Nile State capital as they await ground transport to their hometowns and villages.
The state government's point man on returnees is its Minister of Health, Stephen Lor Nyak, but he said that final responsibility for their safe passage home lies elsewhere.
"Their county commissioners have to provide transportation to their respective counties," the minister told Miraya FM.
The commissioner for Nasir County did just that earlier today when he collected seven county residents from Malakal Way Station, according to Nyachoul Sisco of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Nile Hope Development.
The abandoned returnees were brought to the state capital by the Government of Southern Sudan and are now living in the local stadium and a way station established specifically by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to receive the new arrivals.
A state humanitarian team consisting of UN agencies and NGOs is distributing food, non-food items, medication, clean drinking water and other relief assistance to the marooned returnees through the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.
"The state humanitarian team also plans to provide food and non-food items for three months to those returnees who already reached their homeland, so they can start their new life," said Francis Lenoh of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
He added that the humanitarian team had surveyed 10 of the state's 13 counties to determine levels of relief aid that would be needed for southerners after they left Malakal.
Some of the returnees once called the city their home and are seeking a land grant from Malakal County authorities to help them start a new life.
One of them is Yoanis Bol, who spent 26 of his 49 years living in Khartoum. He landed in Malakal at the end of November with his wife and six children, and the Bol family has been living at the city's way station ever since.
"The government has promised us a sum of land," said Mr. Bol. "We are in the way station waiting until the government keep its promise."