Airlift of Vulnerable South Sudanese Stranded in Khartoum Gets Underway
Sudan / South Sudan - UNHCR and IOM, in collaboration with the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan, today (6/11) started airlifting 1,370 extremely vulnerable South Sudanese from the Sudanese capital Khartoum to Aweil in South Sudan's Northern Bahr El Ghazal State.
The IOM-managed airlift, which is expected to comprise two 47-seat charter flights a day over the next two weeks, will support extremely vulnerable South Sudanese individuals (EVIs) and their families to return to South Sudan.
The Government of Sudan and the National Centre for IDPs and Voluntary Return, on behalf of the Return Task Force, expressed its appreciation to all entities facilitating the return process of the EVIs to South Sudan, particularly UNHCR, IOM, the Civil Aviation Authority and other relevant authorities.
"We will facilitate the airlift of the EVIs and sincerely appreciate the great role being played by UNHCR and IOM in the voluntary return process," said Sudan's Commissioner for Voluntary and Humanitarian Work, Mr Mohammed Sinari Mustafa.
The Humanitarian Attaché of the South Sudanese Embassy in Khartoum, Mr. Deng Pouch Ngouth, also expressed his appreciation for IOM and UNHCR's humanitarian efforts. "We are extremely pleased for this return opportunity, which is helping those who are particularly vulnerable. We look forward to welcoming all home and working to help them rebuild their lives," he said.
The group includes EVIs who have been stranded in open areas of Khartoum for up to two years and whose health status puts them at high risk of developing complications if left living in the open or undertaking the arduous road journey south.
It also includes elderly and handicapped people, unaccompanied minors, vulnerable female-headed households and pregnant women with medical complications, whom UNHCR and the Sudanese authorities have jointly identified as requiring emergency return support.
UNHCR and IOM, together with Sudanese and South Sudanese authorities, will ensure that all individuals have made an informed choice to return and will travel in safety and dignity. IOM medical staff will screen all the returnees to ensure that they are fit to travel.
IOM and UNHCR South Sudan staff will meet the returnees on arrival and provide initial medical assistance. IOM, in close collaboration with the South Sudan authorities, will provide onward transportation to their final places of return.
The returnees are amongst approximately 40,000 other South Sudanese who originally moved to open places in Khartoum since 2010, with the expectation of transportation assistance to South Sudan. Many gave up their jobs and homes in anticipation of the move and subsequently became stranded and at risk from prolonged exposure to the elements.
A UNHCR-coordinated assessment, undertaken with Sudan and South Sudan authorities in June 2012, reconfirmed that most of those stranded have a clear wish and intention to return to South Sudan, but do not have the means of making the journey, either for financial reasons or due to the insecurities of travel through conflict-affected zones. Thus lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection must continue until a durable solution can be found.
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