GENEVA, Switzerland, January 10, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM has begun an airlift of some 600 South Sudanese returnees out of Malakal, Upper Nile State, where they had become stranded on their way home due to recent fighting.
The returnees from Sudan had been living in transit sites in the border town of Renk for several months without any means to continue their journey, and had boarded an IOM barge to reach their final destinations when they became stranded due to the conflict.
They left Renk by barge on 15 December, heading to various destinations, including Upper Nile, Unity and Jonglei states, and the Greater Equatorial and Bahr el Ghazal regions.
On 15 December, armed conflict broke out in the South Sudanese capital Juba and subsequently spread throughout the country. The fighting forced the barge to stop in Malakal, where the group took shelter at a returnee way station. Between 24 December and 3 January, Malakal saw heavy fighting between opposing forces. Several returnees taking shelter at the way station were shot, with three killed and four injured.
As transportation by barge was no longer a safe option, IOM, with the support of the US Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), initiated an airlift to relocate the returnees on 8 January. The operation will consist of 17 flights over a period of nine days, and will transport people to Juba, Wau and Aweil.
On 8 and 9 January, 154 returnees were flown to Juba. They were taken to the Juba way station, where basic services including food, water, sanitation and hygiene support, healthcare, shelter and protection assistance were provided in collaboration with IOM partners.
A total of 366 individuals will be transported to Juba, many of whom will remain in the way station until security conditions improve to allow them to continue their journey to various parts of the Greater Equatoria region. The remaining caseload will be flown to either Wau or Aweil, where IOM will organize buses to transport them to their final destinations.
IOM’s Onward Transport Assistance (OTA) programme helps South Sudanese return home by river, road and air. Over 9,000 individuals were assisted in 2013.