The UN refugee agency says it is running out of money to help Southern
Sudan refugees go home. The UNHCR says it has a shortfall of $11.9 million. It warns it will be forced to shut
down the repatriation operation this year if it does not get the
money. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from UNHCR headquarters in Geneva.
UN refugee agency says the voluntary repatriation program has been a
huge success. It reports nearly 290,000 Southern Sudanese refugees
have gone home since the operation began three years ago.
spokeswoman, Jennifer Pagonis, says repatriation to Southern Sudan
could be completed by the end of 2009 or the first quarter of 2010, if
the current return trend continues, But, she says this depends on
getting funding on time for the rest of this year and next.
rainy season will come to a halt around about October and there is a
large number of refugees who have indicated that they want to come home
as soon as the rainy season is over during which we normally suspend
the return operation," said Pagonis. "Or it runs at a very slow rate.
So, we need to have that money in hand so we can get on with
transporting them home and providing the basic services for them for
when they arrive."
Nearly 130,000 refugees from southern Sudan
remain in exile. Most are from camps in neighboring Uganda, Kenya and
Ethiopia. They fled from Sudan's long-running civil war, which ended
when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement or CPA was signed between the
Muslim north and Christian and animist south in January 2005.
says money is needed to provide services such as clean water, health
and education facilities. They also need agricultural assistance so
returnees can grow their own food once they are back home.
are tough back in southern Sudan," said Pagonis. "Nobody is saying that
things are perfect, but there are still problems with water supply,
with education and it is by no means easy for refugees to return
"But, the thing is they overwhelmingly wish to return and are
signing up. I think there is more confidence in the CPA. We saw a
big surge toward the beginning of the year around April, that they
wanted to be home to register for the census which means that they
could vote in the elections that were coming up later," she added.
stresses it is the refugees' desire to go home which is driving the
repatriation operation. She says the UNHCR needs the funds to support
them when they get there so they will stay home.