South Sudan: First return convoy from Uganda on its way; UNHCR welcomes new donations from USA and African Union
The first convoy of 160 Sudanese refugees in Uganda repatriating to South Sudan left this morning (Tuesday) from the northern district of Moyo to Kadjo Keji, some 30 kilometres north of the Ugandan border. From now until the rainy season starts in June - when the roads become impassable - UNHCR plans to help 160 refugees a day return home to their areas of origin. So far, 27,000 of the some 174,000 Sudanese refugees in Uganda have registered to repatriate.
In preparation for the return, representatives from Sudanese communities and local authorities in the return areas came to Uganda in mid-April on a "come-and-inform visit" to tell refugee leaders what they could expect back home.
Last week, UNHCR sent 13 refugee leaders on a two-day "go-and-see visit" to South Sudan, where they saw for themselves the health, education and water conditions in the area. After also talking with the local population in Kajo Keji area, refugee leaders returned to the refugee settlements in Moyo to tell refugees about their findings so they could make their own decision about returning.
There are still 350,000 Sudanese refugees in neighbouring countries and some 4 million internally displaced in Sudan itself. Since UNHCR started voluntary repatriations in December 2005, some 3,000 refugees have returned from neighbouring countries to South Sudan.
In a related development, we welcome the U.S. government's announcement yesterday of contributions for our 2006 Supplementary Appeals for the return and reintegration of Sudanese refugees to South Sudan, and for protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced persons in Darfur. The U.S. announcement said $12 million would be for the South Sudan repatriation and $5.56 million for our work in Darfur.
We also welcome a US$100,000 contribution last week from the African Union to support the UNHCR repatriation process to South Sudan. This amount will be earmarked for education, mainly for returnee girls.