By Julius N. Uma
May 18, 2012 (JUBA) - At least 1,890 South Sudanese, who were initially stranded in Kosti, a way station located 300km south of Khartoum have been successfully airlifted to South Sudan, the International Organization of Migration (IOM) has announced.
The airlift, which began five days ago with two flights a day, is now up to four flights a day, each reportedly carrying about 150 passengers. However, the IOM says it plans to increase the number of flights to six per day to complete the movement in the next few weeks.
On arrival at the airport in Juba, the South Sudan capital, the returnees are received by an IOM team, registered and immediately transferred to transit facilities. To-date, about 1,292 returnees have arrived at the transit centre managed by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).
“The majority of the returnees previously stranded in Kosti have indicated Juba as their destination. But many do not have family or community support within Juba,” said Vincent Houver, IOM South Sudan chief of mission.
“This essentially means that incoming returnees are likely to remain at the transit site until durable solutions are identified, including the allocation of lands for them to kick-start their lives - typically a long and difficult process,” he adds.
Meanwhile, the IOM has now established emergency shelter facilities on the site to accommodate an initial 1,000 returnees, while an additional 1,500 family shelter kits and tents have reportedly been prepared for the returnees.
According to the IOM, another 1,917 returnees from Renk in South Sudan’s Upper Nile State arrived at Juba port on 16 May by barge. The group, which left Renk two weeks ago, it adds, included 732 people who had their own means of transport to reach their final destination.
Approximately 1,200 people, according to Houver, arrive in South Sudan every week, despite the unpredictable security situation.
Over the past two weeks, however, IOM South Sudan has reportedly provided return assistance to over 5,000 stranded returnees, with the organisation and humanitarian agencies expecting an estimated 100,000 South Sudanese nationals to return to South Sudan in the coming months.
The United Nations on Tuesday launched an appeal for humanitarian operation funds; a day after an estimated 12,000 South Sudanese started leaving Khartoum for Juba, the South Sudan capital.
However, with an estimated 4.7 million people said to be at risk of food insecurity in South Sudan, the UN says the combination of food shortfalls, conflict-related displacement, agricultural disruption, a deteriorating economy and border closures are likely to further worsen the situation.
More than 375,000 South Sudanese, according to the UN, have since 2011 returned from neighbouring Sudan. In addition, it says nearly 20,000 people have been displaced due to border violence in the months of March and April; 170,000 affected by inter-communal fighting in Jonglei State in January and at least 110,000 displaced from the contested area of Abyei a year ago.