The thought of returning home remains uncertain for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in South Sudan as continued fighting in parts of the Country is sending fear amongst those anticipating returning home.
06.05.2014 | By Tamama Norbert Mansfield
“The displacement mainly happened in the Payams (administrative unit) of Gemezza and Mangalla North. These are areas through which the opposition forces had passed” said Mr. Jacob Gore Samuel, the commissioner of Terekeka County.
The people displaced from Gemezza Payam were living mainly in the areas along the Juba-Bor highway. They fled to the Islands in the White Nile River when armed forces opposed to the Government, who had defected from their army units, passed through the area between18-19 December 2013.
“The IDPs fled to the Islands using canoes. Their chicken, Goats and food were looted by the opposition forces” said Mr. John Modi, the Coordinator for the Relief & Rehabilitation Commission in Terekeka County.
At Gemezza center, life seems to be slowly returning to normality. A scene of fighting between the army and opposition forces, the center lies near the River, accessible by land and water. Barges, Canoes and motorboats could be seen on the River, as people move between the Islands and Terekeka town, trading in Fish and other commodities.
Overlooking the center, on the River, is a string of Islands, home to most of the IDPs.
“IDPs prefer to live on the Islands for now where they feel safe, but they lack health services. The health center at Gemezza was burnt by the White Army. Drugs were looted,” laments Mr. John Lado, the Acting Payam administrator of Gemezza.
Though there are no signs of conflict, IDPs fear to return home right now. “For now, we request food aid to continue. We also need Farm tools. We heard fighting is still going on in other parts of the Country” they say.
“We don’t know whether the IDPs will be able to plant crops and realize good harvest this year without external support. Terekeka has one rainy season from April to May” said Mr. Abraham Gai, the head Chief of Gemezza.
Riding on motorboat on the River, the IDPs could be seen cultivating or smoking fish on local kilns. They wave to visitors. Many have built their makeshift shelters near the landing sites. Others have planted small maize fields that are now ready for harvest.
“I still want to live on the Island. But i need a hoes and seeds to enable me plant simsim, groundnuts and sorghum” said Mrs.Rodha Jama Modi, a 24 years old mother of 6 children.
“With support from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) has already procured 3,280 pieces of Hoes and 21.32 metric tonnes of Ground nut and Maize seeds including 500kgs of assorted vegetable seeds but their needs remain higher. The inputs will be distributed to the IDPs in May just in time for the onset of the cultivation season, said Mr. Tombe Ronald, the Team Leader for the NPA Crisis Response Project in Terekeka County.
Mr. Tombe said 3,280 households will receive the seeds and tools. “We shall also distribute fishing kits to 1,000 households” he added.
In Palek village located along the highway, few women go about with their household chores. Young Boys could be seen driving Livestock for crazing. Several homes look deserted with no signs of life.
“Most of the IDPs don’t want to return home right now because they fear that the White Army will return and displace them again” says Mr.Lino Legge Yiro, the sub-chief of Palek, as he points to the ruins of his burnt grass thatched hut.
“We don’t know when the IDPs will be able to return home. We urge NPA the agency that has always been with us during the time of need and other partners for continued support” the County Coordinator for the Relief & Rehabilitation Commission added.
“I urge our partners to support the IDPS with farm tools and seeds during this cultivation season as they wait to return to their homes” the County Commissioner added.
The fighting that erupted in Juba in mid-December last year between army forces loyal to President Salva Kiir and those supporting former vice-president Riek Machar, quickly spread to other parts of the Country, displacing hundreds and thousands of people.
IDPs in Terekeka County of Central Equatoria state consist mainly of the Mundari community, the inhabitants of the County. Traditionally a cattle keeping community, the Mundari also engage in fishing and subsistence farming. The County is suitable for large scale groundnut production, though it’s still carried out at subsistence level. Sorghum, Maize, Sesame and Beans are also cultivated by the community.
Relief aid from NPA
NPA in partnership with WFP has so far distributed 642mt of food to 68,000 IDPs in Lakes state, Upper Nile state, Jonglei state and Central Equatoria state.
NPA first responded to the needs of the IDPs in February and distributed 5,000 Non-Food kits to 30.000 people in Terekeka County, Yirol East& West, and Awerial Counties, in Lakes state.
In Terekeka, NPA distributes food from WFP on monthly basis, to 8,600 IDPs living in Legeri, Geri, Kanyawai, Gulbach, Mangalla center, Gemeza, wariyang and Tombek, where IDPs from Jonglei state have sought shelter. Food is transported by NPA using hired motorboats from the warehouse in Terekeka town.
Since February, NPA has distributed 233.881 metric tonnes of food to IDPs in Terekeka.