Southern Sudan: Emergency team deploys to start reintegration projects
UNHCR is dispatching a 15-member emergency team to southern Sudan to start urgently needed reintegration projects in preparation for the return of some 550,000 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries. The projects are aimed quickly putting in place the basic groundwork for a voluntary repatriation operation and conditions for refugees to return home. The projects will also be aimed at meeting the needs of internally displaced people (IDPs) who are starting to return on their own to the same areas where refugees are expected to return. There are an estimated 4 million IDPs from southern Sudan.
Refugees in camps in neighbouring countries have told us they are reluctant to return to a region almost totally lacking in infrastructure and basic services after more than two decades of conflict. The projects the emergency team will tackle are varied and range from simple but important individual assistance to infrastructure work. Examples include renovating or building schools and health facilities, supplying school items, providing bicycles and training for teachers, constructing sanitation facilities for schools and health centres, rehabilitating roads and community water sources, creating youth and women's centres to promote reconciliation, education on HIV prevention, mine awareness training, and setting up small income-generating projects.
The emergency team has experts in health, water and sanitation, infrastructure, community services, education, income generation, and reconciliation, as well as telecommunications, information technology staff and field safety officers. Three members of the emergency team arrived in Sudan over the last few days, joining two team members who arrived earlier. Five more staff leave for Sudan this later week, with the remaining team members scheduled to depart shortly. They will boost our 22 staff already deployed in three offices in southern Sudan - in Rumbek, Juba and Yei. We are also airlifting on Tuesday from Amsterdam to Entebbe in Uganda, vehicles, communications and computer equipment for the operation.
UNHCR hopes that with enough investment right now to rehabilitate communities, the first organized returns of refugees after the rainy season ends late September/October. However, for this to become a reality, the agency urgently needs funds to implement its projects. Of the estimated $62 million needed for 2005, UNHCR has not yet received any contributions. The emergency team deployment and initial rehabilitation projects are being paid for from funds borrowed from the agency's operational reserve.