Following a traumatic journey to relative safety, returnees escaping violence in Sudan face new challenges

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A visiting UNMISS team meets returnees fleeing violence in neighbouring Sudan who are currently located in a transit site in Warrap. Photo by Zejin Yin/UNMISS

25 Jul 2023

Following a traumatic journey to relative safety, returnees escaping violence in Sudan face new challenges

Zejin Yin

WARRAP – "Our belongings were confiscated by armed personnel who forcibly entered our homes, beat us and enrolled young boys into their ranks without consent,” recalls Mary Kuot, a survivor of the Sudan crisis who is now in a transit site in Warrap. Her grief is palpable.

This ongoing fighting has led to an influx of returnees who are tracing their steps homewards to South Sudan from Khartoum, fleeing to save their lives.

In Kuajok, the capital of Warrap state, nearly 5,000 new arrivals who initially expected to return to their original counties, are currently living in an overcrowded transit site.

Their humanitarian needs are rising every day. Hunger and disease are real and present dangers that these twice displaced people now face. Additionally, women and girls have endured gender-based and sexual violence while making the arduous journey from Khartoum to South Sudan.

“Some 18 children have died of malnutrition and disease. We don’t have the means to give them a proper burial. Additionally, nine women have given birth without adequate maternal health supplies,” revealed Lina Abak Bak, a new returnee, as she led an integrated patrol team from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) through the site.

The patrol’s objective: To assess the security situation in the area and monitor human rights conditions as well as humanitarian needs.

"Records of registered returnees residing in Kuajok show that there are approximately 4,200 people and 700 households. However, the actual number of people in the transit site is higher, with unregistered individuals who expect to head to other counties when possible, also sheltering here for the time being,” explained Santo Kual, leader of the returnee community in Warrap.

The visiting UNMISS team assured new arrivals that the government, humanitarian partners and the UN Peacekeeping mission are doing their best to alleviate these dire conditions.

“To call these circumstances difficult, is an understatement. But despite all hardships, it is crucial that you continue to monitor and report any violations of human rights, particularly against women and children,” said Roda Sube, an UNMISS Gender Officer. “For our part, we are working with all partners to ensure that returnees in transit are safe and can reach their final destinations as soon as is feasible.”