Dinkas fleeing war to face starvation - Beliel Camp, South Darfur - New IDP camp at Nyamlell in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal
Aid agencies fear that the thousands of deprived Dinkas who have recently started to arrive in the area from Darfur and Khartoum will increase the pressure on the region's limited resources, IRIN reported May 18, 2006 - excerpt:
Louis Hoffmann, head of the South Sudan office of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), estimates that there are between 80,000 and 90,000 displaced Dinka from Bahr el Ghazal in Darfur, "the vast majority" originating from Aweil North and East. The Sudanese government put the number as high as 300,000, but no international organisation has been able to confirm this.
No large-scale return movements from Darfur to South Sudan took place immediately after the signing of the peace agreement. According to aid workers, the first groups of displaced Dinka who tested the waters in Northern Bahr el Ghazal in 2005 were "a little shocked about the local conditions" and came back to Darfur. Their opinion changed, however, following a general deterioration of security in Darfur and a series of targeted attacks on Dinka settlements from January 2006.
Former residents of Beliel camp for the internally displaced near Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, reported that Janjawid - government-aligned Arab militia - had attacked the camp. According to Margaret Yamaha, field coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) for Aweil West and North, Dinka returnees from El Ferdose, Abu Matariq and El Da'ein - east of Nyala - all mentioned an increase in intimidation, attacks, killing and rape.
Peter Ngong Yel, a 34-year-old Dinka man who was abducted by Arab cattle herders of the Rizzeigat community in 1984 and eventually made his way to Beliel camp, said that armed men would come at night and loot animals and other belongings of the camp residents, shooting anybody who resisted. "A Janjawid killed my niece when they tried to steal her goat," he said. "Although he was caught, he didn't even get arrested."
In mid-March, according to Hoffmann, the IOM grew concerned about the rapid buildup of returning Dinka on the bank of the Kiir River, near the border between South Darfur and Northern Bahr el Ghazal. "Besides the 3,000 people IOM helped to return [from Darfur] in April, we have assisted about 4,500 spontaneous returns to get off the river," Hoffmann said. In addition, approximately 13,000 people from Khartoum had returned to the area in 2006, he estimated.
Almost daily, an overloaded bus from Khartoum arrives at the banks of the Nyamlell river, with beds, chairs, bicycles and other belongings of returnees piled high on top of its roof.
Large numbers of Dinka in Darfur are returning empty-handed to one of the most food-insecure areas of southern Sudan, just before the beginning of the hunger season.
"You came with nothing, so you'll leave with nothing," one Dinka returnee quoted armed Darfurian men as saying when they prevented the returnees from taking home their animals and other belongings.
Mathilde Berthelot, field coordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) France, in Aquem town in Aweil East said the lack of access to clean water and the absence of primary healthcare were the main reasons for the high malnutrition rates. "Fifty percent of the children in our clinic are sick because of the bad quality of the water and have diarrhoea," Berthelot said. "As it takes their parents two or three days to reach our clinic, the children are dehydrated when they get here and quickly become malnourished."
A survey carried out by Concern in February showed that 58 percent of the households were using shallow wells or water from riverbanks, while only 42 percent used protected wells. More than 95 percent did not have access to a pit latrine.
"Latrines are rarely used here and women still laugh when men use a latrine," said Henk Meyer, Nyamlell programme coordinator for the NGO Cordaid.
Photo: The new IDP camp at Nyamlell in Aweil, Northern Bahr el Ghazal (IRIN)
Note, May 25 2006 IRIN report: South Sudan: Violence in Jonglei, Upper Nile forces Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) withdrawal