August 10, 2012 (JUBA) - The fate of over 16,000 South Sudanese returnees stranded in Upper Nile state hangs in balance, after the International Organization for Migration (IOM) announced its plan to suspend operations for the next two months, due to lack of funds.
- A South Sudanese returnee from Khartoum carries a baby as she arrives in South Sudan’s capital Juba May 14, 2012.(Reuters)
The organization, prior to this notice, had organized a convoy of river barges, which left Renk town for the South Sudan capital carrying over 2,500 vulnerable returnees, who had been stranded in the Upper Nile state for months.
Most of these South Sudan-bound returnees, IOM says, entered the town due to insecurity along the border with Sudan earlier this year and the onset of the rainy season, but added they need urgent help to get back to their various areas of origin.
“With over 20,000 stranded returnees throughout South Sudan, the majority of whom are located in Renk, where all access with the exception of the Nile river is cut off, it is critical that onward transport assistance is provided if we are to avoid multiple humanitarian crises at transit points,” said Vincent Houver, IOM South Sudan chief of mission.
However, in a statement extended to Sudan Tribune, IOM says its appeal for over $45m meant to provide assistance to stranded and vulnerable returnees within South Sudan, including providing transport, non-food and medical assistance, was only funded to the tune of 12%, leaving a funding gap of over $40m.
Also, the advent of the raining season, the organization says, has severely hampered road transport within South Sudan, leaving thousands of returnees still stranded in Renk.
An estimated 116,000 people, it says, have since the start of the year, returned to South Sudan from neighboring Sudan. In the past year, however, IOM has reportedly helped to transport 50,000 stranded returnees by river barges, boats, buses, trains and planes to their final destinations.
The organization, which co-chairs the emergency returns sector, also works in partnership with other agencies, but also reportedly involved in the distribution of non-food relief items and emergency shelter materials, the provision of emergency healthcare services, and the provision of water and sanitation services.
Meanwhile, IOM says at least 40,000 South Sudanese nationals still remain stranded in Khartoum and Kosti towns of Sudan, awaiting return assistance.