South Sudanese refugees return to Raja, Western Bahr el Ghazal, but face challenges

unmiss UNHCR voluntary returns humanitarian refugees western bahr el ghazal south sudan

Many South Sudanese who fled for their lives to Sudan when civil war broke out in 2016 have now returned to western Bahr El Ghazal. However, they need humanitarian support to rebuild their lives. Photo by Michael Wondi/UNMISS.

7 Feb 2022

South Sudanese refugees return to Raja, Western Bahr el Ghazal, but face challenges

Michael Wondi

WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL - With greatly reduced political violence in South Sudan, refugees and internally displaced persons are slowly returning to their original settlements. However, coming home has its own set of challenges.

“When conflict erupted in 2016, I fled to South Darfur in Sudan but now that there is relative peace in my own country, I decided it is time for me to return to my people,” reveals Haja Fartak, a 60-year-old woman and one of some 2,000 refugees who have recently returned to Raja, a county in Western Bahr el Ghazal.

Most of these new returnees were sheltering in Nimir, Buram and Fordos in South Darfur.

However, since their return to their own country, Haja and others like her have received no humanitarian assistance.

To get a firsthand view of the situation, a joint delegation from the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) visited the county last week.

 “We are here today to meet you and listen to your concerns so that we can provide much-needed support to all returnees as you make efforts to rebuild your lives,” said Sam Muhumure, Head of the UNMISS Field Office in Wau, while speaking to community leaders.

Furthermore, Mr. Muhumure reiterated the UN peacekeeping mission’s commitment to rehabilitate necessary checkpoints along the Wau-Raja road to ensure unfettered access for humanitarian aid supplies.

For his part, Arafat Jamal, Country Director of UNHCR in South Sudan urged all humanitarian actors to mobilise speedy support for the newly returned.

“As UNHCR, we are looking at the conditions that newly returned refugees are facing so we can best assess the kind of help they need,” said Mr Jamal.  

General Salah Mumigi, County Commissioner in Raja underscored that new returnees are faced with a dire situation. “There has been a massive influx of voluntary returns in the past three months and as a county, we need all the help we can get to ensure that our brothers and sisters who have come back to South Sudan after years are able to begin a new phase of life in a dignified manner where all their basic needs are met. I hope our government and international partners will heed this call,” he stated.

Additionally, County Commissioner Mumigi also made an appeal for safe returns for all South Sudanese refugees currently living in Sudan.