800,000 to return to south Sudan: UNHCR

AFP , Friday 11 Feb 2011

Hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese return to their hometowns from the north, adding more pressure on the new African state's "already fragile humanitarian environment"

Southern Sudanese celebrate the formal announcement of referendum in Juba,(Photo:AP)

The UN refugee agency said Friday that up to 800,000 southern Sudanese are expected to return from the north this year, after their home region's vote to split from the north.

"Already, some 200,000 southerners have returned from the north over the past three months," said Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

"In Khartoum, so far some 75,000 others have registered to go back.

"Relief agencies anticipate that as many as 800,000 southerners will return from the north this year, which will add pressure on the already fragile humanitarian environment."

The UNHCR held a meeting with donors this week to ask for 53.4 million dollars to "support southerners moving back to the south," Edwards told journalists.

Returnees have not only had to contend with insecurity en route, but many have also been sleeping in the open without shelter, according to the UNHCR.

"There are currently close to 20,000 individuals stuck in the various departure centres around Khartoum, many of which lack shelter space.

"People have in some instances been sleeping in the open for nearly two months," said Edwards.

In the January 9-15 referendum, almost 99 percent of southerners voted to secede, splitting Africa's largest country into two.

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