6 March 2007The United Nations refugee agency today launched a $56.1-million appeal to help more than 125,000 southern Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) return home this year and reintegrate into their communities in a region where two decades of civil war uprooted some 4.5 million people. The United Nations refugee agency today launched a $56.1-million appeal to help more than 125,000 southern Sudanese refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) return home this year and reintegrate into their communities in a region where two decades of civil war uprooted some 4.5 million people. Since a peace deal was signed in January 2005 between the Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLA), an estimated 102,000 refugees have already returned home, including 32,400 under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) voluntary repatriation programme. An estimated 850,000 IDPs have also returned to south Sudan, mostly using their own means. “Against a backdrop of landmines, human rights abuses and the almost total destruction of infrastructure and services, ensuring return and reintegration in safety and dignity and contributing to rebuilding economic, social, civil and political life are major undertakings, not just for UNHCR but for all partners involved,” the agency said in launching the appeal. “Despite considerable achievements during the past two years, many receiving communities are still struggling to absorb returnees.” This year’s appeal aims to assist the return from nearby countries of 102,000 refugees and 25,000 IDPs, providing returnees with reintegration packages, rehabilitating health clinics and schools, and improving shelter and sanitation. Along with partners and humanitarian organizations and working closely with the Sudanese government, UNHCR will also help to monitor the human rights situation of some 1.8 million IDPs around Khartoum, the capital, and Kassala state, providing accurate information on areas of origin so they can make informed decisions about returning. Conditions in return areas, including security, water, health and education are major factors for refugees and IDPs deciding to go home. As part of the joint UN work programme for 2007, UNHCR plans to rehabilitate and construct 65 boreholes, and rehabilitate 60 health clinics and 30 schools in areas of high refugee return. Last year, UNHCR received more than $63 million for its south Sudan operations. In a related development today, the agency today resumed the voluntary repatriation of Sudanese refugees living in north-west Uganda after it was halted in mid-January because of an outbreak of meningitis. The disease has now been contained. When the peace agreement for southern Sudan was signed, there were an estimated 6.7 million IDPs in Africa’s largest country, including 2 million from the separate conflict in the western Darfur region, and some 550,000 refugees in neighbouring countries.