News and Information

Sudan refugees start to return
January 12, 2005
After the signing of a deal to end more than 20 years of war in southern Sudan, some of those who fled their homes are starting to go back home.

But the towns and villages they escaped from are not ready to cope with the influx.

Some 4.5 million Sudanese fled the fighting - the world's largest displaced community, according to the United Nations.

These exiles received the news of Sunday's peace agreement with jubilation.

There are reports that thousands are already on the move - packing up and trekking back home.

But they are returning to an area devastated by the years of civil war - there are no tarmac roads, no cities, no schools or hospitals.

Travelling across the region one journalist said recently it made you believe the only implements humanity had invented were guns and bombs.

Rumbek, which is to temporarily be the capital of Southern Sudan, is a town of thatched huts, reports Reuters news agency.

There are no proper roads, mains electricity, piped water, or even a multi-storey building.


Wave after wave of refugees have fled the conflict, which first broke out in 1962.

See a map of Sudanese refugees

There are some 1.8m living in Khartoum alone and another 2.2m across the rest of Sudan.

Finally, I think I will know my country Sudan. I left when I was very small
Eliza Ayan Ayuen

Will you return to Sudan?
More than 500,000 have fled to Sudan's neighbours: Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.

The UNHCR expects some 150,000 people to cross into Sudan in the first year. But even larger numbers - up to 1.5m - may move from inside Sudan itself.

When the first news of peace talks emerged in 2002, thousands of Sudanese began travelling to their villages from other parts of the country.

The United Nations refugee agency is trying to prepare for their return - but as Jennifer Clark of the UNHCR says, southern Sudan is not yet ready to cope with them.

"The needs are so great and the infrastructure is so lacking in the south that we would not want to see a huge return of people very quickly, because it could possibly overwhelm the ability of these communities to receive people back."

The UN has not been helped by the slow response of donors: last year it called for $30m to get work under way - it got just $6m.


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