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Returning IDPs Lack Basic Services in Kordofan

A new report by the International Organization for Migration finds an overwhelming majority of the nearly two million Internally Displaced People and refugees who have returned to Southern Kordofan, a state in Sudan, and to Southern Sudan continue to lack the most basic services and facilities. People who fled the conflict in the south have been returning home since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed in January 2005 ending more than 20 years of civil strife.

This report has been in the works for the past three years and its findings are grim. Spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, Jean-Philippe Chauzy, says conditions are so bad that about 200,000 people who had returned home after years in exile have left again.

He tells VOA they went to other villages and other areas that could provide them with the basic facilities and services lacking in Southern Kordofan and Southern Sudan.

"The report shows, for instance, that access to drinkable water is one of the main challenges that returnees have to face once they go back to their villages," said Chauzy.

"We also have noticed that hand pumps that were put in villages to make access to drinkable water easy for those returnees, but also for the host population that stayed in South Sudan-that most of those hand pumps have broken down and have not been repaired," he added.

As a consequence, Chauzy says a third of all communities continue to use rivers and unprotected wells as their main source of water.

A team of 1,400 trained staff from the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission and the Voluntary Reintegration Committee has been tracking the returnees for the past three years. Its aim was to make sure people were getting enough assistance and that the returns were sustainable.

Chauzy says their conclusions are dispiriting. He says the team found access to adequate healthcare remains extremely scarce and most places have no health facilities whatsoever.

He says close to 80 percent of the villages assessed do not have direct access to basic primary school. And the few schools that do exist are simple outdoor facilities.

He says the region desperately needs to attract skilled professionals, such as doctors, nurses, and teachers to return to help rebuild their communities.

"IOM has been running a program now for the past three years that tries to encourage the return of the qualified or the highly qualified displaced or refugees or migrants who are in various countries, developed countries-to try and encourage them to do short-term or longer-term assignments in their areas of origin in South Sudan," said Chauzy. "It is a return of qualified nationals of qualified displaced people."

IOM Spokesman Chauzy says the program is meeting with some success. But, he cautions that this alone is not enough to fix everything. He says it is no magic silver bullet. He says a lot more help is needed from the humanitarian community to make these returns sustainable.

While it is important to help people return to their homes of origin, he says it is also important to have the conditions necessary to keep them home.