Sudan: Briefing on Khartoum displaced
The latest demolitions highlight the continuing plight of some 1.8 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in and around Khartoum. The international community's short-term and inadequate response to the chronic emergency faced by the Khartoum displaced has compounded their persistent suffering and sense of hopelessness, humanitarian sources and donor officials said.
The displaced in Khartoum are mainly people who fled conflict or drought in southern Sudan and southern Kordofan since 1983. Among them are also a number of people displaced by drought in western Sudan or deforestation in central Sudan. Making up 41 percent of the capital's current population, they also represent almost half of Sudan's displaced population which, at about four million, is the world's largest, according to UN estimates.
Most displaced in Khartoum State are scattered in hundreds of unauthorised squatter areas or settlements. An assessment conducted by UN, NGO and government agencies this year in 15 of the main squatter areas found them to be characterised by overcrowding, poor housing and unhealthy water and sanitation conditions. Health services were found to be limited to curative treatment, and frequent disease outbreaks were reported.
The majority of the displaced are from agricultural backgrounds, are illiterate and have limited skills, according to a UNDP report. Only about 5-10 percent have been able to find permanent jobs in the public or formal private sector, it said. Others depend on incomes earned as casual workers, domestic servants or petty traders.
Their 15 year-old displacement into an alien urban environment has left them without land to cultivate and few possibilities for sustainable livelihoods. As a result, they face long-term poverty and poor food security conditions and are subject to exploitation and discrimination on account of their southern origins, with little prospect of real change in the foreseeable future, humanitarian sources and donor officials in Khartoum told IRIN. The ongoing conflict in southern Sudan means they have little chance of resettling in their home areas, they added.
Since 1991, many Khartoum squatter settlements have been demolished, some without prior notice, as part of a government urban renewal plan formulated with the assistance of the World Bank. Those living in cleared squatter communities are relocated to the official displaced camps or other planned sites on the outskirts of the city.
In the current demolitions, at least 3,000 affected squatter families in Carton Kassala are to be relocated to other areas, sources said. While tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed since 1991, the number of the demolitions had gone down drastically over the past year, possibly due to a combination of international criticism, a shortage of government funds and the collapse of the city's real-estate market, according to various sources.
About 250,000 of the 1.8 million displaced persons live in four camps established by the government in 1992. While the camp residents benefit from substantial health, water and other basic services provided by UN and NGO agencies, their household food security, in particular, remains precarious. Data provided by humanitarian agencies indicates that malnutrition rates among children under five years old in the camps in 1997-98 has ranged from 12 to 24 percent, including severe malnutrition rates of up to three percent.
There are no general food aid distributions for the Khartoum displaced but an average of 46,000 displaced people per month benefit from special feeding programmes run by the Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA). Beneficiaries include malnourished children, pregnant women, orphans, new arrivals and other vulnerable groups, ADRA told IRIN. In times of increased food stress, displaced children are sent to work to supplement family incomes, according to the UN Humanitarian Coordination Unit (UNHCU) in Khartoum. Only about 36 percent of displaced school-age children were enrolled in schools in 1997, an assessment by Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) found last year.
Amid the global confusion over organisational mandates for IDPs, increased protection is cited by Khartoum-based agencies as a priority. UNHCU, which last year started an IDP programme with a protection component, said that 95 percent of people held in Khartoum's prisons are displaced women charged with activities such as beer brewing and prostitution. Many women in the displaced camps depend on these illegal activities as the sole source of family income.
Also at particularly high risk of physical, sexual or psychological abuse are the estimated 10,000-15,000 street children in the capital, most of whom are war-affected displaced, humanitarian sources said.
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