Tuesday, February 8, 2011

South Sudanese Cities Bracing for Influx of Returnees from the North

     During the 21 year-long civil war between the north and south in Sudan, about four million people left their homes in the south and fled to northern Sudan or neighboring countries. Following the peace agreement in 2005, about half of these returned to their home territories in the south. Many of them are still living in makeshift homes fashioned out of scavenged materials and have no regular employment. Of those southerners who left the south during the fighting and did not return immediately after the peace agreement, large numbers began coming home in late 2010, shortly before the referendum vote which they expected to result in a free South Sudan. Among them are many people who may have difficulty adjusting to a new life in the south: young people who were born in the north or who lived most of their life there, and grew up speaking Arabic and living according to the customs of the north; children who are returning home without adult family members accompanying them; and elderly and disabled people who have special needs.

     Many of these people had been living in Khartoum for many years and are used to urban life, and so are choosing to settle in cities when they return to the south. Southern Sudanese cities are preparing for a massive influx of people: Rumbek, for example, which has a population of around 100,000 people, is expecting 30,000 new arrivals.

     Such a huge increase in population so suddenly is expected to put a lot of strain on southern cities, which already have very weak infrastructures. The UNHCR is working to provide some support to both the returnees and the communities that are receiving them. Southern cities are also doing what they can to prepare to receive them – we were awakened early in the morning by the shouting of hundreds of new police recruits as they participated in a hasty training course across the road from our compound in Rumbek, for example – but there is still concern about problems that so many new inhabitants may create.

     The photo below shows a family returning home via a main road in Rumbek – however these people are probably returning home from the market, not from Khartoum.


  1. Dear Alison
    I have been following the stories you shared about Sudan. Tell me is the shea butter the ladies are producing for sale.I would like to contribute to their effort by buying their product.I am living in Australia.Kind regards Marlene

  2. Hi Marlene,
    Shea butter produced by the women in Rumbek I mentioned in the blog isn’t for sale in Australia (yet!), but I googled the question “Where can you buy shea butter in Australia?” and several websites that looked helpful came up. Hopefully you can find a store in your area that sells it or buy it online. Thank you for your interest in supporting the women, and Good Luck!

  3. Dear Madam,
    I found your photos very nice and now I am enquiring your permission to use the photo Family walking in Rumbek in my collage - illustration for architectural presentation. Please let me know an original address, in case if this photo doesn't belong to you.

    Best Regards Gennadi