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UNHCR launches $56.1 million appeal to help southern Sudanese return home

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UNHCR launches $56.1 million appeal to help southern Sudanese return home

6 March 2007

Geneva, Tuesday 6 March 2007

The UN refugee agency today launched a US$56.1 million appeal for its operations this year to help tens of thousands of southern Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people return home and reintegrate in their communities.

The funds are needed to boost the ongoing voluntary repatriation programme to assist the return from nearby countries of more than 100,000 refugees this year; to help 25,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) return home; to provide returnees with reintegration packages; to rehabilitate health clinics and schools; and to improve shelter and sanitation.

The appeal acknowledges returnees face considerable challenges and that major efforts are needed to ensure the return is sustainable.

"Despite considerable achievements during the past two years, many receiving communities are still struggling to absorb returnees. This is largely due to the destruction and poor state of infrastructure and basic services in the war-affected areas of return," the appeal acknowledges.

Sustained efforts by the authorities and the international community are also needed to help the reintegration of returnees who have either been internally displaced or in exile for a prolonged period, the appeal notes.

Since a peace deal was signed in January 2005 between the Sudanese government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA), an estimated 102,000 refugees have returned home, including 32,400 with UNHCR's organised repatriation programme. An estimated 850,000 IDPs have also returned to south Sudan, mostly using their own means. Thousands more are expected to return in 2007.

"Against a backdrop of landmines, human rights abuses and the almost total destruction of infrastructure and services, ensuring return and reintegration in safety and dignity and contributing to rebuilding economic, social, civil and political life are major undertakings, not just for UNHCR but for all partners involved," the appeal states.

Donors are being asked for funds to assist the voluntary return and reintegration this year of 102,000 refugees from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya and Uganda. UNHCR will also coordinate the return of 25,000 IDPs - 15,000 in Blue Nile to southern Sudan and 10,000 from Central Equatoria to Jonglei.

Along with partners and humanitarian organisations and working closely with the Sudanese government, UNHCR will also assist in monitoring the human rights situation of some 1.8 million IDPs around Khartoum and Kassala states, and providing accurate information on areas of origin so they can make informed decisions about returning.

Conditions in return areas, including security, water, health and education are major factors for refugees and IDPs deciding to return home. As part of the joint UN work programme for 2007, UNHCR plans to rehabilitate and construct 65 boreholes, and rehabilitate 60 health clinics and 30 schools in areas of high refugee return.

Last year, UNHCR received more than $US 63 million for its south Sudan operations.

When the peace agreement was signed in 2005, there were an estimated 6.7 million people displaced in Sudan, including 2 million from the Darfur conflict, and some 550,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.