Since South Sudan gained independence in 2011, thousands of its people have returned from Sudan to their homeland. The World Food Programme is easing these families' reintegration by providing food assistance and cash transfers.
AWEIL - When Asunta Achok Madut returned from Sudan to her native Northern Bahr el Ghazal state with her husband and eight children, the family had no home and no means of earning a living.
Madut's brother-in-law, who works as a casual labourer, welcomed the family into his home in the village of Maper Akot, about 3 kilometers west of Aweil, the state capital. However, the arrival of 10 people put a huge strain on his meagre resources.
Vital help came from a WFP programme to provide food assistance and cash transfers to families struggling to reintegrate into their communities in South Sudan.
Families who came back to South Sudan through government-organised returns are eligible for WFP's Cash Reintegration Package, which provides food for one month and a lump-sum cash transfer to cover the cost of two months of food. Returnees are issued with special identity cards, which they can use to withdraw the cash at branches of Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB).
The cash transfers allow returnees to purchase their preferred food commodities, including items which are not part of the WFP food basket. They also enable them to pay for other needs, such as medicines.
For 39-year-old Madut, both components of the WFP package were critical.
"I do not know what we would have done if we did not get the food from WFP because the demands for food had increased upon the arrival of our family of 10 people," Madut said
Boosting the economy
Her family also received 1,610 South Sudanese Pounds (approximately US$525) as the cash component of the reintegration package.
"We used the money to buy maize, onions, laundry and bathing soaps and medicines for our children. This money was a real help because we had nothing, and it would have taken my brother-in-law three months to earn such an amount," Madut said.
Returnees say the cash transfers allow them to choose what to buy, giving them a sense of dignity and providing them with the means to start rebuilding their lives.
Since the cash reintegration package was launched in February this year, WFP has assisted nearly 3,000 people at a cost of around US$250,000. The programme is being implemented in Juba, Wau and Aweil - towns where food is available in functioning markets and where banks are present.
"This enables us to use local markets in WFP's efforts to enhance food and nutrition security and boost the local economy, which is important for the growth and development of South Sudan," said WFP's South Sudan Deputy Country Director Eddie Rowe.
"When returnees buy from local traders, they participate in the local economy, which also facilitates their reintegration," he added.
When Arol Akech Kiir, his wife and their eight children returned to South Sudan from Sudan, they were taken in by Kiir's nephew in the village of Hai Salam on the outskirts of Aweil.
"We were sharing one room, all of us with children and no privacy," Kiir said.
He noted that the crowded conditions led to tension between his nephew and the nephew's wife, but that the cash reintegration package that Kiir's family received allowed them to contribute to the household, reducing the strain on the family and restoring harmony.