A humanitarian airlift from Sudan to South Sudan brings more than 300 southerners home. Thousands more will follow. Photo: UNHCR/V.TanSo far, some 4,200 of the estimated 12,000 South Sudanese who were stranded at a river port in Sudan for months awaiting transportation back to their country have been flown to Juba, in South Sudan, in an ongoing airlift, a senior United Nations official said today.
The airlift from Kosti ? a river port on the White Nile in Sudan ? which started a week ago, is being organized by the International Organization for Migration with support from the governments of Sudan and South Sudan.
?I welcome the cooperation between the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan to facilitate this airlift,? the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Ali Al-Za?tari, said in a news release, adding that relief agencies will continue to assist the most vulnerable among the returnees.
Mr. Al-Za?tari also welcomed progress by the two countries? governments on regularizing the status of people of South Sudanese origin who wish to remain in Sudan. He noted that the South Sudanese embassy in Khartoum recently started issuing passports and nationality certificates to people of South Sudanese origin, and he welcomed the issuance of temporary identification cards by the Government of Sudan to citizens of South Sudan residing in Sudan.
The airlift coincides with busiest time of the year for humanitarian organizations ? when supplies have to be pre-positioned in hubs throughout South Sudan before the onset of the rainy season when roads become impassable, making up to 60 per cent of rural areas inaccessible.
Referring to Abyei, an area contested by South Sudan and Sudan, Mr. Al-Za?tari said that only 5,000 people have returned to the area while more than 100,000 people remain displaced. He noted that it was ?high time? for humanitarian staff to have access to Abyei from Sudan ? currently, international humanitarian staff are only able to get to Abyei if they travel via South Sudan.
Last week, the Security Council adopted a resolution extending by six months the mandate of the contested area?s UN peacekeeping force ? the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNIFSA) ? and demanded that the two countries finalize the establishment of an administration for the area in line with an agreement signed last year.