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Pibor returnees facing critical food shortages across region

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August 4, 2014 (BOR) – Ongoing food insecurity continues to make life difficult for returnees to Jonglei state’s Pibor county.

The South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) county coordinator, Beko Konyi, told Sudan Tribune by phone from Pibor on Monday that 3,757 people have returned to Pibor from Juba, Kenya and Uganda.

However, many returnees are struggling to cope with the harsh conditions in the region, which is severely affecting their ability to rebuild their lives.

Many Pibor citizens fled the region two years ago at the height of the conflict between the South Sudanese army (SPLA) and the rebel South Sudan Democratic Movement (SSDM) cobra faction led by David Yau Yau.

Konyi said hunger remained a major issue in Pibor, describing it as “widespread through the county, engulfing more than 20,000 individuals from Marua in the east to Pibor centre”.

“The hunger is widespread. There is drought this year and so many people did not cultivate. The returnees had no houses and other family assets, so they found it difficult to start living,” said Konyi.

Marua, which is home to a large number of women, children and young male cattle keepers, has been hard-hit by food shortages, but is so far yet to receive any humanitarian assistance yet, says Konyi.

The county has witnessed a massive influx of returnees between April and May, but the number of people returning had since decreased due to food security issues in Pibor, with refugees in Ethiopia still undecided on when they would return to their homes.

“I think the same of issue of hunger has contributed to their decision-making in Ethiopia; they fear to come because of this hunger,” said Konyi.

With no special feeding program by any humanitarian agency, malnutrition among children remains an ongoing threat.

“Children are weak [and there is] no help to them,” said Konyi. “We are trying our best to ask humanitarian agencies to come for their help,” he added.

NO FACILITIES

Schools and health facilities in Pibor were largely destroyed during the SSDM’s armed conflict with the SPLA, during saw tribal clashes and counter attacks between ethnic Murle ethnic tribesmen and Lou Nuer become commonplace.

Konyi said Pibor is now without a functional medical clinic, while hundreds of children across the region remain without access to education and health services.

While at least 700 children have access to basic education in Pibor town where one of the schools was left unscathed by the conflict, the majority remain at home where they perform domestic duties for their families.

Meanwhile, ongoing instability in the far west and south of Pibor have continued to hamper efforts to establish schools in that area.

(ST)

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