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IOM Appeals for Funding to Airlift Stranded South Sudanese from Kosti

By International Office of Migration (IOM)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, May 11, 2012/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- IOM is urgently appealing for US$ 3 million to enable it to airlift to South Sudan 12-15,000 South Sudanese currently stranded in Kosti, White Nile State, 200 km south of the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

IOM hopes to start the voluntary movement on Sunday 12th May, but currently has only US$2.5 million of the US$5.5 million it needs to carry out the operation.

The operational plan envisages moving people by bus from Kosti to Khartoum and then by air from Khartoum to Juba, the capital of South Sudan.

There are currently no direct commercial flights between Khartoum and Juba and, because of the conflict in the border area between the two countries and the rainy season, road transport is limited to destinations just inside the South Sudan border, where tensions remain high and large numbers of people are already waiting in transit camps for onward transportation.

IOM will need to hire some 25 buses and charter up to 100 flights to move the entire Kosti caseload. It will also have to pay for medical screening and supplies, operations staff and escorts, overnight accommodation for the returnees and food.

"We need to get clear donor commitments at the outset of this operation to avoid any sudden mid-way stoppage due to lack of funds. This is a complex operation and any disruption will have severe consequences for these people, many of whom are very vulnerable," says IOM Sudan Chief of Mission Jill Helke.

"The two governments are working very hard to ensure that everything goes smoothly in terms of providing travel documents for the returnees and landing clearances for the flights. Another important element is arranging for people's excess luggage to go to South Sudan by truck," she adds.

An estimated 12,000-15,000 South Sudanese have been in Kosti way station for anything up to a year waiting for transport to enable them to complete the final leg of their journey to South Sudan. Most have been living in makeshift shelters in very difficult conditions, entirely dependent on aid agencies for basic necessities and services.

Two weeks ago, the Governor of the While Nile state, where Kosti is located, gave a deadline to all South Sudanese and international agencies to leave the area within a week. Following representations from the international community, the Sudanese Government extended the deadline and agreed to facilitate IOM's airlift plan.