Expected returnees to strain resources in South Sudan

Expected returnees to strain resources in South Sudan

13/04/2012

FAO is calling urgently for funding to offer agricultural support to an expected flood of South Sudanese returning from the Sudan. Hundreds of thousands of people may be forced to return from the north because of a continuing failure to resolve their citizenship status. FAO says few will have land or the means to feed themselves and their families, when they arrive.

FAO needs funds to help these vulnerable people access and begin to grow food immediately. An estimated 700 000 South Sudanese people currently live in the Sudan. Their right to residency there expires in April, and agreements to regularise their status have been postponed because of ongoing conflict.

Around 120 000 South Sudanese have indicated they’re willing to return immediately. But it’s feared hundreds of thousands more may have to leave, due to political pressure and local violence. These returnees would arrive at a critical time in the agricultural calendar, when land preparation and planting occurs. Even if they do have access to land, there will not be time to plough, obtain seeds and plant crops, to take advantage of optimum growing conditions.

Due to funding shortfalls, FAO can provide only 63 000 households with agricultural support this next season, which stretches from April to August, depending on the region.

FAO has called for USD 23 million in 2012 to respond to urgent food security and livelihoods interventions in South Sudan, but has received only USD 5 million of that - twenty percent of the total requirement.

One hundred thousand households– returnees, IDPs and other vulnerable people – already in South Sudan will miss out on assistance as a result. FAO will not be able to respond if hundreds of thousands of additional South Sudanese are forced to return in the next few weeks.

FAO is asking for its funding shortfall to be covered, to put in place an ambitious range of innovative solutions, targeting the expected returnees. This is an estimated USD 18 million dollars. FAO is proposing to help them begin vegetable gardening and fishing, improving the nutritional content of their diets, by distributing seeds, tools and fishing gear within a few weeks. Other programmes include ‘cash transfer’ or cash for work schemes. These reward returnees with money in return for building agriculture-related assets such as wells, poultry production centres and dykes, enhancing livelihoods and easing their return to host ommunities.

“It’s an ambitious plan,” FAO Head of Office in South Sudan George Okech says, “but these returnees are an important focus for FAO in South Sudan.” “They are truly vulnerable people and we must act fast to give them the means and skills to feed themselves and their families and make a living.”