Deputy High Commissioner to visit south Sudan
UNHCR's Deputy High Commissioner, Wendy Chamberlin, leaves Saturday for a week-long trip to southern Sudan, Uganda and Kenya, where she will look at UNHCR's initial efforts to lay the groundwork for eventual refugee return to south Sudan. The January 9 peace agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) raises hopes for the return home of some 500,000 refugees from south Sudan currently living in neighbouring countries. However, the extreme lack of infrastructure and basic services in southern Sudan after two decades of conflict means that major investment is needed to rehabilitate communities before such returns can begin. UNHCR has opened three offices in southern Sudan - in Rumbek, Juba and Yei - but without adequate funds we cannot fully begin projects to rehabilitate areas of potential return.
The Deputy High Commissioner is undertaking the mission to get a first-hand look at UNHCR's start-up operation and to draw international attention to this drastically underfunded programme. Of the nearly $30 million UNHCR requested for the region in 2004, the agency received only about $6 million in donations. For 2005, UNHCR estimates that it needs more than $62 million to begin to create conditions to allow for refugee return. So far this year, no contributions have been received for the programme. If we're going to see lasting peace in southern Sudan, a lot of work needs to be done now to ensure that half a million refugees can finally go home and stay home.
The Deputy High Commissioner is expected to meet with authorities and UN partners in Khartoum, to visit the towns of Rumbek and Yei in southern Sudan and meet with internally displaced people in the region. She is then scheduled to visit Uganda to meet with refugees and hear from them directly about their views on repatriation. She will wrap up the trip with a visit to Sudanese refugees in Kenya's Kakuma camp.
Some 223,000 refugees from southern Sudan are in Uganda, 60,000 in Kenya, 88,000 in Ethiopia; 69,000 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, an estimated 36,000 in the Central African Republic; and 30,000 in Egypt. The conflict in the south has also displaced an estimated 4 million more people within Sudan.