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Monday, 14 November 2011

UK minister warns of emergency developing on Sudan border

Thousands of Southern Sudanese risk being caught in a humanitarian crisis because the Governments of Sudan and South Sudan have failed to take responsibility for their own people, Minister Stephen O’Brien warned today after visiting a transit camp where families are stuck north of the border.

More than 700,000 southerners living in Sudan lost their Sudanese nationality at the time of secession and were given nine months to ‘regularise their status’. But as the half way mark of that deadline approaches, neither Sudan nor South Sudan have decided what that means in practice.

Amid the confusion, thousands of people are desperate to make their way to the South.  More than 12,000 are stranded in the town of Kosti waiting for safe passage across the border, with thousands more waiting in Khartoum for help. Having abandoned their homes, jobs and all but the belongings they can carry, they have travelled hundreds of miles to build a new life in Africa’s newest nation. They have been forced to live in makeshift shelters with little access to food and water as they wait an average of 108 days for a barge to take them down the Nile, the only safe route to South Sudan.

Barge numbers are limited because there is only one company that supplies boats which can transport southerners on the long journey in a humane way – with toilets, water and medical supplies on board. This has put intense strain on water, sanitation and health provisions as the transit camp was originally intended for just 1,600 individuals and up to 200 people continue to arrive every week.

Source: DFID