Some 55,000 head south to areas of origin ahead of Sudan's referendum

News Stories, 21 December 2010

© UNHCR/P. Wiggers
On the move in Sudan. Next month's referendum is on the minds of most people in Sudan.

KHARTOUM, Sudan, December 21 (UNHCR) Almost 55,000 southerners living in the North have made their way back to South Sudan in the past few weeks ahead of next month's key referendum on independence.

Their movement by road, rail, barge and plane has been both organized by the South Sudan government and spontaneous. Most have returned to Unity State, but Upper Nile, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Jonglei and Warrap states have also received large numbers of returnees.

"In the sprawling camps for displaced people around Khartoum, thousands of southerners are packing their belongings and waiting to leave," a UNHCR spokesman said, while adding that "the new arrivals are straining a fragile humanitarian environment."

South Sudan is already dealing with more than 215,000 internally displaced people who have been uprooted by ethnic clashes, rebel attacks or other forms of insecurity since January.

Last week, UNHCR began distributing aid to some of the 35,000 returnees in and around the town of Abyei a historic bridge between the north and south areas. These are people who came from Khartoum with the help of local authorities and they are benefitting from emergency shelter kits.

"We have also mobilized resources to respond to possible increases in humanitarian needs elsewhere, by shipping and pre-positioning essential humanitarian supplies, including in surrounding countries," the spokesman said.

At the same time, UNHCR is setting up reception centres along the way in Sudan to assist people during their journey and strengthening its presence and capacity in key southern states and counties.

Since the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement in January 2005 between the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the southern Sudan rebel group, the Sudan People's Liberation Army, some 2 million displaced people have returned to their communities in southern Sudan and the so-called 'Three Areas' of Abyei, Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan. Another 330,000 refugees returned from exile, most of them with the help of UNHCR.

Achieving durable solutions for these returnees remains difficult due to rising insecurity and limited access to services, livelihoods and infrastructure. UNHCR will continue to focus on the returnees and work to ensure their successful integration into southern Sudan society.

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International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project by photographer Brian Sokol that asks refugees from different parts of the world, "What is the most important thing you brought from home?" The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets - things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

When fighting erupted in Kormaganza, Blue Nile state, in September last year, 80-year-old Dawa Musa's family decided to flee to the neighbouring village of Mafot. Dawa was too frail to make the two-day journey by foot, so her son, Awad Kutuk Tungud, hid her in the bush for three days while he moved his wife, Alahia, and nine children to safety. Awad returned for his mother and carried her to Mafot, where the family remained in relative safety for several months - until artillery began shelling the village.

Awad again fled with his family - this time across the border to South Sudan. For 15 gruelling days, he carried both his elderly mother and his daughter Zainab on his back, until they reached the border crossing at Al Fudj in February. UNHCR transported the family to Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. They lived in safety for seven months until heavy rains caused flooding, making it difficult for UNHCR to bring clean water to the camp and bringing the threat of highly contagious waterborne diseases.

UNHCR set up a new camp in Gendrassa, located 55 kilometres from Jamam and on higher ground, and began the relocation of 56,000 people to the new camp. Among them were Awad and his family. Awad carried his mother once again, but this time it was to their new tent in Gendrassa camp. Awad has plans to begin farming. "Come back in three months," he said, "and there will be maize growing."

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

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South Sudan: Helping the Most Vulnerable

UNHCR comes to the assistance of older, disabled and sickly Sudanese refugees arriving in Yusuf Batil Camp.
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Kassala camp in eastern Sudan provides shelter to thousands of refugees from Eritrea. Many of them pass through the hands of ruthless and dangerous smugglers.
Sudan: Heading for a New HomePlay video

Sudan: Heading for a New Home

UNHCR is offering to help move hundreds of people from Sudan to newly independent South Sudan, where they will build new lives. Almost 250 families with ties to the south are waiting for a ride.