Consultations with people displaced from their homes and sheltering in protection sites in Wau town reveal that inadequate housing and a lack of basic services and security remain factors that hinder them from returning to their homes.
“I would like to go back, but only half of the wall of my house is still standing, and only skeletons of schools and other social services like health clinics remain,” says Nanai Osman Darnis, a mother of eight who ran to the protection site of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan in Wau in June 2017, when her nearby village was hit by a wave of violence.
“I lost my brother and uncle during the conflict, and still feel unsafe to return because people have abandoned the village.”
Comprehensive feedback from internally displaced persons indicates that functioning basic services are critical to convince people to voluntarily return to their home areas south and southwest of Wau town, like Lokoloko, Jebel Kheir and Nazareth.
The need for adequate housing, including proper doors and windows and iron sheet roofs, was also highlighted by the internally displaced people, who were consulted between May and July this year.
Various safety concerns were also reported. Policing, specifically at night, and enhanced enforcement of the law are required to make people staying at protection sites feel safe to voluntarily return to their homes.
Arbitrary arrests, illegal collection of “taxes” at checkpoints and restricted access to farming areas must all come to an end to enable sheltering people to resume normal lives.
During a visit to Wau, Alain Noudehou, deputy chief of UNMISS and responsible for coordinating the humanitarian response of the UN family, emphasised the importance of making it possible for potential returnees to make a living.
“The government has to grant access to farming areas so that those returning to their homes are able to start rebuilding their livelihoods,” he noted. “UNMISS, the government and civil society organizations must also do their part to build trust and confidence between the government and internally displaced persons.”
The Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO), a non-governmental organization, conducted the consultations with the displaced persons with the support of UNMISS. Local government officials and representatives of the security forces also participated in the process.
Currently about 17,700 displaced people are sheltering at the protection site next to the UN base in Wau. Another estimated 9,000 people are staying in five other protected locations around town.