Sudan: Thousands stranded on border with South

Southern Sudanese leaving Sudan by barge from Kosti to begin their journey up the Nile to Juba to their new lives in South Sudan. Credit: IOM
Humanitarians have mobilized in Kosti in Sudan, where thousands of South Sudanese are stranded on the border and unable to return home.

UN agencies and humanitarian partners are helping to support thousands of South Sudanese who are stranded in Kosti in Sudan’s White Nile State. 

The State Governor has called for the 12,000 – 15,000 stranded people, and the international organizations that are helping them, to leave Kosti by 20 May. The South Sudanese were due to travel by barge from Kosti along the River Nile, but this is no longer an option. The Government of Sudan suspended barge movements from Kosti in February, following allegations that in South Sudan the barges were being used to move military equipment. 
 
Rising tensions between Sudan and South Sudan have meant that there is no end in sight to the suspension of river traffic. Humanitarian agencies are increasingly concerned about those who are stranded.
 
“As those awaiting repatriation from Kosti to South Sudan are in a vulnerable position and lack many basic services including adequate shelter, vital and quick collaboration is needed from Sudan and South Sudan to alleviate their hardship,” said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan Ali Al-Za’tari. He expressed the hope that people will be able to cross the border and return home in a safe, orderly and dignified way, either by road or by air. 
 
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and other humanitarian partners have been providing food, water, healthcare and essential services to those stranded for several months. The World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed 241.3 metric tons of food in Kosti from January to April 2012, with a month’s supply of food rations distributed at the beginning of May. National and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have trucked water into Kosti and maintained water and sanitation facilities, and have also been providing vaccinations, child nutritional screening, therapeutic feeding and some health and maternity services. UNICEF has supported the Sudanese Ministry of Social Welfare in helping families to trace their relatives and reunifying unaccompanied children with their families.
 
On 2 May, following advocacy with the federal authorities by humanitarian partners, OCHA and the Humanitarian Coordinator, Sudan’s Minister of Welfare and Social Services, Amira Fadil, announced that the deadline to leave Kosti would be extended to 20 May. Discussions are continuing between humanitarian partners and the Government of Sudan to organize transportation by road or by air.

The returnees are heading south after the Sudanese authorities gave them nine months to regularize their residency status or return to South Sudan when that state seceded last July. Many decided to travel south after encountering bureaucratic hurdles to regularizing their status.