UNHCR faces funding crisis for South Sudan operations
UNHCR is facing a critical shortfall of $11.1 million for its refugee return and reintegration operations budget in Southern Sudan for 2007. The funding situation is so dire that transportation of refugees back home from camps in neighbouring countries to Sudan, due to pick up pace again soon after the rainy season ends, may not be able to go ahead, defeating the purpose of our work in South Sudan and neighbouring Blue Nile State.
UNHCR's 2007 budget for the Southern Sudan operation is $56.1 million, but only $45 million has been received. We are urgently calling on donors to come forward with funds to help keep this operation going. Our aim this year was to facilitate the return and reintegration of 102,000 Sudanese refugees and some 25,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) but without further funds, this number will be certainly be limited. So far this year, we have helped 42,000 refugees return, and along with other agencies assisted 12,000 IDPs to return home.
In September, lack of funds forced us to stop buying ahead basic assistance items which we usually distribute to returnees to help them settle back in their communities of origin. These items include plastic sheeting for shelter, blankets, sleeping mats, soap, jerry cans, hygiene cloth for women, mosquito nets and cooking sets.
With the end of the rainy season in the next few weeks, repatriation operations are set to increase pace with some 22,000 refugees expected to return to south-eastern Sudan between October and December 2007. The returnees are scheduled to return to Eastern Equatoria, Jonglei, Upper Nile and Blue Nile from Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. However, if we don't receive funding very soon, we will not be able to repatriate them nor provide them with minimum assistance upon return. Our programmes to build and rehabilitate basic facilities, such as schools, health centres and boreholes, and our demining activities in those return areas will also be seriously hampered.
So far, 68,000 refugees have returned home with our help since the launch of the voluntary repatriation operation in December 2005. They were repatriated from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt. Some 92,000 have returned by their own means since 2005.
Southern Sudan remains extensively devastated and under-developed more than two years after the signing of the peace agreement in January 2005 which ended a two-decade civil war. The conflict caused the displacement of over four million civilians in and outside the country. Local institutions and communities in South Sudan simply do not have the resources to receive and help returning refugees and IDPs and rely on the government and the international community to assist. In some villages in Western Equatoria and Jonglei states, the only schools have been reconstructed or rehabilitated by UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies.
UNHCR has eight offices in south Sudan, located in Juba, Yei, Bor, Kapoeta, Kajo Keji, Nimule, and Rumbek. In Blue Nile and Upper Nile States, UNHCR has a presence in Damazin, Kurmuk and Malakal.
There are still 260,000 registered Sudanese refugees in exile with the majority (216,000) living in UNHCR camps in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.