Wind destroys returnee shelters in Unity

8 Jun 2012

Wind destroys returnee shelters in Unity

7 June 2012 - Heavy wind and rain severely damaged about 17 returnee shelters today in Rubkona, Unity State, leaving over 100 people living in the open, state officials said.

Returnee team leader James Yak said his group's quest for final resettlement had been marred by hardship and tragedy since departing Khartoum in Sudan 13 months ago.

"Sickness, hunger and lack of proper shelter lived with us daily," Mr. Yak said. "We lost an elderly woman and a child as a result of this."

Before the wind damage, the returnees' prime concern was to reach their origin counties, the teamleader said. The 284-member group, consisting mainly of women and children, are currently living at Rubkona Port.

"We don't want to be here or taken to way stations," he said. "If we are taken to our counties, there will be no need for temporary shelters. Our families will take us in."

Shouts of "Take us home" and "We don't need to be homeless at home" were heard as other downhearted returnees at the port protested the loss of their shelters.

State Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner William Kuol Geng acknowledged that the solution was to transport returnees to their counties, but pointed to a lack of funding.

"RRC as an entity doesn't have a budget," Mr. Geng said. "The government also lacks the capacity. Since the shutting down of oil wells, our economy has crumbled."

"If anyone can help us to transport the returnees, we will be happy," he said. "But from our side, I don't see that happening soon."

Mr. Geng added that the non-governmental organization CARE International, which has set up a mobile clinic at the port for returnees, was building a way station outside the port area.

"The way stations under construction include seven units with a capacity of accommodating six persons," said Care International Bentiu Program Coordinator Kenneth Marimira.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs representative Giovanni Quacquareel said the UN refugee agency would transport returnees to way stations. "It is the responsibility of the government to transport the returnees to their counties."

The first batch of returnees from Sudan arrived in Unity State in early March, followed by a second group in May.