Khartoum — On 17 January inter-communal conflict in the Jebel Moon locality of West Darfur State affected an estimated 3,500 people in the five return villages of Chilchil, Girji Girji, Bir Bateha, Dileibaya and Khomi. In some of the villages homes and recent harvests were burned and livestock was looted.
According to the latest bulletin of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Sudan, government forces brought the situation under control by 19 January and some of the perpetrators were reportedly arrested. People had spontaneously returned to these villages from refugee camps in Chad and from villages located along the Sudan-Chad border in 2017 and 2018 following encouragement from authorities to return and the improvement of the security situation with the establishment of police posts.
A joint inter-agency needs assessment team visited the affected villages from 12 to 14 February to assess needs. The villagers had initially fled their homes to Selea, Kuru and Rakkeina villages-close to the Jebel Moon mountains-and some moved into neighbouring Chad. At the time of the assessment most had returned to their homes.
The main gaps identified by the mission team were the lack of basic services and availability of only one functioning water pump in each village, which is shared with the nomadic communities living nearby. The mission team recommended establishing additional water sources to avoid possible conflict over resources. In addition, there are no health, nutrition, education, sanitation or community conflict resolution/reconciliation centres/mechanisms available in any of the villages. Other recommendations include the provision of emergency shelter and household supplies; and distribution of food aid as most food supplies were destroyed.
In addition to humanitarian assistance, more durable solutions are required, the mission reported. These include the reinforcement of the security situation and carrying out reconciliation activities to maintain peace in the area and to encourage more returns. Basic services such as water, health, nutrition, education and sanitation services also need to be established. Livelihood assistance is necessary to help the returnees rebuild their lives and should include the distribution of agricultural supplies such as seeds and tools.
Initial humanitarian response
Aid agencies have provided initial humanitarian response to the affected people. The International Organization of Migration (IOM) distributed emergency household kits (1 piece of plastic sheet, 1 jerry can, 1 cooking set, 2 blankets and 2 sleeping mats) to 761 families, benefitting about 3,800 people in Bir Bateha (176 families), Khomi (146 families), Dileibaya (117 families), Girji Girji (116 families) and Chilchil (206 families). Additional household kits will be provided to 262 families in three return villages in Jabal Moon locality, they are Manjuratat, Badda and Ardi. IOM is planning to target an additional 477 families in the three return villages of Bir Saliba, Argod Shallal and Sugurdi in Sirba locality.
World Food Programme (WFP) will provide one-month emergency general food assistance shortly, which will be followed by an in-depth food security assessment in the five villages to identify food needs.
About 22,000 people voluntarily return to areas of origin in South Darfur
From 3 to 6 February 2019, the Recovery, Returns, and Reintegration (RRR) sector carried out voluntary verification missions to five return villages in Katayla locality (Batikha, Haraza, Eraida Al Dwenki, Aradiba Bawat, and Gibaiabish), and one return village in Ed El Fursan locality (Muaqina) to verify voluntariness of returns, number of returnees and to assess needs. Participating in the mission were representatives from the government's Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) and the Voluntary Return and Reintegration Commission (VRRC). According to community leaders, people had fled their homes following fighting between two tribes in the area in 2007 and 2013 and returned following reconciliation in 2015, which contributed to stabilization in the area. These returns took place between 2015 and 2018.
A total of 4,441 families (about 22,200 people) returned to their home villages in Katayla and Ed El Fursan localities. In Katayla, 2,283 families returned to five villages, while 2,087 families returned to surrounding villages. In Ed El Fursan, 40 families returned to Muaqina village and 31 families to surrounding villages, according to the community leaders.
A village damaged during tribal conflict in Jebel Moon locality, West Darfur (IA Mission, February 2019)
The team met with the community leaders including women, youth and the elderly, to get more information about the nature of their return including general concerns related to security, voluntariness, and current living conditions. There were no major protection concerns or security incidents reported since they returned to their villages, except for minor tensions between animal herders and farmers during the rainy season (June-September). These tensions were resolved by peace committees in the villages, rendering good relationships between neighbours, said the community leaders. According to reports, all the returnees were able to access their farms without any problems and have managed to cultivate their lands resulting in a good harvest in 2018. However, the returnees are concerned about the lack of basic services such as water, health, and education.
No immediate life-saving humanitarian needs, except for water, were identified. However, the mission team recommended longer-term durable assistance such as enhancing protection by boosting police presence in the return villages and for government authorities to prioritize the collection of arms. The team also recommended the provision of basic services including water, health and education, as well as food security and livelihood assistance. Once IOM completes the registration and verification processes and the final numbers of those in need are established, aid organizations will start providing assistance.
North Darfur establishes the Committee for the Coordination of Voluntary Returns
Authorities in North Darfur State established the Committee for the Coordination of Voluntary Return to encourage, monitor and verify returns in the state. The role of the committee is to coordinate efforts of partners working in the voluntary return programme in the state; ensure plans and programmes of organizations are in line with state priorities; conduct a comprehensive survey of returnees and assess their needs; follow up on the performance of national and international organizations working in the state, especially with regard to the provision of basic services to refugees and returnees; implement any directives connected to voluntary return programmes communicated by federal authorities or the Wali (Governor) of the state; and seek assistance of organizations willing to work in voluntary return programmes.
The committee held its first meeting on 5 February and was chaired by the State Minister of Health and Social Development and included representatives from government authorities, UN agencies, the African Union - United Nations Mission in Darfur (Unamid), international NGOs and national NGOs.
Current economic conditions may result in high levels of food insecurity in 2019 - FEWS NET
Food security has seasonally improved with increased cereal availability following the November 2018 to February 2019 harvest. However, the current economic situation is expected to further deteriorate throughout the projection period (February - September) and this will continue to drive up already high food and non-food prices, says FEWS NET in their latest Sudan Food Security Outlook report. The negative impact of high food prices will be somewhat mitigated by the fact that livestock prices and wage labour are also increasing, although the overall purchasing power will remain below average, FEWS NET says. A higher number of households will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse levels of food security through September.
Between June and September, the lean season in Sudan, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food security are expected in parts of Red Sea, Kassala, Gedaref, Blue Nile, West Kordofan, North Kordofan, South Kordofan, and greater Darfur. Of highest concern are IDPs in areas controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement - North (SPLM-N) in South Kordofan and areas controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Army - Abdel Wahid (SPLA-AW) faction in Jebel Marra. IDPs in these areas are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) during the peak of the lean season from August to September, FEWS NET reports.
FEWS NET also says that the June to September 2019 rainy season is forecasted to be above average. This is anticipated to lead to flooding in mid-2019 and increase the prevalence of waterborne diseases. Similar to 2018, the above-average rainfall will lead to favourable crop yields, though ongoing economic issues are likely continue limiting households' capacity to cultivate and harvest at normal levels. Overall, the 2019/20 harvest will likely be average, though more reliable harvest projections will be possible once planting is underway in June/July, according to FEWS NET.
Aid organizations continue to assist over 22,500 IDPs in Sortony, North Darfur
Humanitarian organizations continue to assist an estimated 21,500 IDPs in the Sortony gathering site, North Darfur State. They fled their homes in the Jebel Marra area due to conflict and arrived in Sortony during the first half of 2016 seeking shelter and assistance.
The international NGO Oxfam America carries out water, sanitation and hygiene activities in the area. An estimated 200,000 litres of water are trucked in daily from the nearby Kube water source. In addition, 95,000 litres of water are pumped through pipelines extended from Tui village, bringing the available water supply equivalent to 11.4 litres per person per day. In attempts to establish a sustainable water supply in Sortony, Oxfam America has carried out a geophysical study of the area and all necessary preparations for the construction of a water pipeline from Kube to Sortony have been done. The international NGO has also completed another study to construct five embankments at the Tui water course which will ensure the recharging water points in Tui village and will be used as a backup for water sources in Kube. Both projects are planned to be completed before the onset of the next rainy season in June. Last year, Oxfam America rehabilitated in Sortony a large water pond (hafir), where water is stored and is currently being used for livestock watering and construction. This water is expected to last up to mid-April.
For sanitation, Oxfam America has built 305 new latrines as a replacement for those that were backfilled. Additionally, Oxfam America and the national NGO Kebkabiya Small Holders Charitable Society (KSCS) plan to build 350 latrines, on top of the existing 4,500.
There are two Primary Health Centres (PHC) in Sortony, one is run by the national NGO ANHAR Organization and the other is run by the Rawafid Organization, which has taken over the management of the clinic from the State Ministry of Health (SMoH). In addition, KSCS has signed an agreement with the World Food Programme (WFP) to run the supplementary feeding programme in Sortony. Currently, there are 336 children under the age of five and 157 pregnant and lactating women enrolled into the Targeted Supplementary Feeding Programmes (TSFPs) in Sortony.
For food security and livelihood assistance, WFP completed a general food distribution (GFD) for IDPs in Sortony on 26 February. The distributions included cooking oil, salt, sorghum and lentils. In addition, Oxfam America targeted 2,000 vulnerable families for cash support. However, due to difficulties in withdrawing cash from banks, Oxfam America has rescheduled the payments for three instalments, the first of which 710 SDG (about $15) has already been distributed to the beneficiaries. The second instalment will follow soon, depending on cash availability.
For protection, KSCS has been running five Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) at the site, with between 3,000 and 3,500 children benefitting from different child protection activities. In addition, the national NGO Nada Al Azhar-with the support of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA)-has carried out workshops focusing on gender-based violence (GBV) awareness-raising sessions, capacity-building for community-based protection networks (CBPNWs) and a training workshop on GBV awareness issues for service providers. The NGO has also distributed 150 hygiene kits to 150 people.
UN Habitat receives $700,000 from Japan to support IDP returns in South Darfur
The UN Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat) received bilateral funding of USD $700,000 in 2019 from Japan to support the return of some 17,100 IDPs in South Darfur State. This is part of an emergency support program for IDP returns in Dagariss village (22 km southwest of Nyala town in El Salam locality) from March 2019 to March 2020. Dagariss village has seen a large number of IDP returns, however, the village lacks basic services, public facilities and security, according to UN Habitat.
Returnees in Dagariss village meet with UN Habitat (UN Habitat, 2019)
The project aims to support sustainable returns and ensure human security of both the returnee and local communities through the development of guiding principles of IDP returns and securing land rights. The project also aims to enhance the self-reliance of the returnees and local communities, particularly youth and women, through self-help construction and improvement of basic services and public facilities.
Last year, Japan provided bilateral funding of $900,000 to UN Habitat to support South Sudanese refugee and hosting communities in El Jebelain locality, White Nile State.