1 April 2005 As peace takes hold in southern Sudan after an agreement between the Government and rebels ended Africa’s longest-running civil war, United Nations agencies are redoubling efforts to prepare for the return of 4.5 million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and lay the ground for social and economic development.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and its partners are launching a series of new community projects next week to help rehabilitate communities in readiness for the displaced people and refugees who may return this year to the south, where the new-found peace is a stark contrast to the ongoing conflict in the western Darfur region.
Some 550,000 refugees and an estimated 4 million IDPs remain uprooted after the decades-long conflict and could potentially return to a region that has been totally devastated, lacking even minimal basic infrastructure and services. In late February, UNHCR deployed an emergency team of experts in fields such as water, sanitation, community services, health, and income generation to begin reintegration projects to help communities cope with the returns.
The projects starting this coming week include support to primary health care facilities and HIV awareness activities and AIDS treatment in Kajo Keji and Yei counties, near the borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Uganda.
Another project will build a dormitory for students at a vocational training school in Yei, while a third will rehabilitate 11 primary and secondary schools, promote education for girls, train teachers and set up income-generating activities for volunteer teachers.
UNHCR and its partners are also rehabilitating boreholes to provide clean water to communities in the three counties and training village committees on proper water management. Public health centres and the regional hospital are being rehabilitated and basic medical supplies, equipment and training will be provided in Ezo and Yei counties.
Electrical systems are being installed, the paediatric ward rehabilitated and a new paediatric wing constructed in the Bahr El Gazal Regional Hospital in Rumbek, the only referral hospital in the province. More projects on education, health, water, income generation and community services are being developed for implementation in the near future.
Meanwhile the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) has started planning for a comprehensive population census in Sudan, the first in Africa’s largest country in more than 20 years, at a cost of around $60 million.
“Having data on primary household listings will not only contribute to socio-economic planning and development across Sudan, but enhance the country’s future democratic development,” UNFPA country representative Nimal Hettiaratchy said of the census, one of the provisions of the January peace agreement.
It is meant to be completed within the first two years.