News / Africa

South Sudan Returnees Stuck in Limbo, Face Tough Choice

Hannah McNeish
— About two million people have returned to South Sudan since a 2005 peace agreement ended decades of civil war that is estimated to have killed around the same number. But since South Sudan became a nation 18 months ago, tens of thousands of people who have wanted to enter South Sudan from the north are trapped in border towns, and face the tough choice of leaving behind their possessions as U.N. agencies struggle to get them home.

Surrounded by piles of furniture and blackboards in a makeshift home on the banks of the Nile, Mary Venerato Laki does her best to try to teach the children at a camp in the port town of Renk.

Some people have waited for up to two years for the government and aid agencies in South Sudan to take them downstream to new homes. Laki is among those waiting.  “They said there will be steamers [ships] coming to collect us. They used to tell us like that. That we will be going, we be going.  But until now we are waiting," she said.

Some 20,000 people are stuck here with no schools and a lack of health services and food.  Many are alone and have to guard the family’s worldly possessions, which are considered a safer investment than money.

“Our money in the north, they don’t use [it] in the south. Many of the people, the little money they have, they bought things, so that if they bring money, it will be taken on the way. This is why the boat has to come to take the things," said Laki.

But after a territorial dispute that almost brought Sudan and South Sudan to war again, and caused the north to close the border, the new nation halted oil production, cutting off its economic lifeline.

Shelving its $16 million commitment to bring people back, local authorities in Upper Nile state caused further delays by trying to impose a tax on the aid agency barges taking people south.

The U.N.-funded International Organization for Migration, or IOM, has helped transport just 40,000 people out of some 700,000 returnees since November 2010.

But the U.N. humanitarian coordinator for South Sudan, Toby Lanzer, says the IOM cannot afford to transport what it estimates is 30 cubic feet of luggage per person.

“We’re talking about a multimillion-dollar operation. On average it’s about $1,000 per person, and we’ve got about 20,00 people here, so you do the math. There simply isn’t the money to move all of these people and their luggage," he said.

Lanzer says the time has come to make tough choices. “If you do want to move home, one thing is clear: it’s going to be really hard for the government or the U.N. to help move a few people with 30 cubic meters of luggage. I think a lot of the luggage is going to need to be sold off or donated and that will generate some income which will help people start afresh," he said.

The chairperson of the state-run Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Peter Lam Both, says an estimated quarter-million people still in Sudan might want to come south.

With 40,000 already living in makeshift camps and poor conditions in Khartoum, Renk’s resources could soon be stretched even further.  Both says tough choices on resettlement and repossession are looming.

“We’ve said to them, 'You need to sell some of these luggage because some of them are not really in good shape. Once you pack up things for two years and you put them in one place you will never expect them to remain in good condition the way you put them before.' We have said, 'You need to sell them so when you get to your final destination you will be able to purchase for yourself some new materials wherever you are going," he said.

But for widow Mary Venerato Laki, whose siblings and parents all died, selling the family’s fortune - meant to provide for four orphaned nieces who are already in Juba - is a sacrifice she cannot face.

You May Like

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid