SUDAN: MAG has positive impact for returning refugees
Back home, Luka, Rafaela and their youngest child, 12 year-old William.
“I am always happy when I see MAG raising awareness on safe behaviour to avoid accidents. We did not know what to do if we faced any of these dangerous items, as we lived out of the country for so long.” – Luka, who has returned home to Eastern Equatoria from a refugee camp in Uganda.
Luka Adiges and his wife Rafaela literally ran to the Ugandan border in 1989 from the village of Okudo Maria, fleeing the conflict that had reached their doorstep with nothing but their two daughters in their arms.
They travelled by boat up the White Nile River and clambered over the mountains that form the natural border between Sudan and Uganda. Luka remembers that when he looked back, for what would be the last sight of his homeland for nine years, there were around 300 people running behind them.
Once they safely reached Uganda, they found a new home at the Salari Refugee Camp, where their six other children were born.
‘Full of Landmines’
Though the 21-year civil war ended in 2005, the family hesitated before returning to Sudan as they were told that the area was “full of landmines” and unexploded ordnance (UXO) from the
Luka points to mountains that his family crossed to reach Uganda 11 years ago.
conflict. They organised a ‘recognition visit’, where representatives from families at the refugee camp travelled to their places of origin to check if resettlement would be possible. “UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency] showed us some photos and videos,” Luka told us, “but we needed to see it with our own eyes.”
Satisfied that the war was over, he and his family travelled home in 2008 in a UNHCR-organised convoy. By the beginning of June 2010 only 36 households had come back, all former refugees from Uganda, and Luka told MAG that while many more families are waiting to return, they won’t do so until the standard of living within the village improves.
The rural hospital that once existed close by is now in disrepair and, after serving as a military hospital during the war, the area is contaminated with landmines and UXO. The nearest health facility is in Nimule town, 30 kilometres away, while there are no secondary schools in the area, meaning some of Luka’s and Rafaela’s children are still in school in Uganda.
Moreover, the wider area remains contaminated. Said Luka: “Aswa [a neighbouring community] still has many dangerous items. A year ago, a cow stepped on a mine near to the bridge so we stopped using that path. And we are not going fishing like in the past, as you can see a lot of UXO lying on the ground.”
Mine Risk Education (MRE)
“I am always happy when I see MAG raising awareness on safe behaviour to avoid accidents,” said Luka. “We did not know what to do if we faced any of these dangerous items, since we lived
A MAG Mine Risk Education (MRE) session at the village uses games to reiterate safety messages and show the effects of mines and unexploded ordnance. [Photo by MAG Sudan]
out of the country for so long.”MAG is providing Mine Risk Education (MRE), ensuring returnees have the knowledge to keep themselves safe in contaminated areas and to pass on information regarding specific dangerous areas.
He also highlighted the need for ongoing MRE: “You also need to come back after some time because people tend to forget”. MAG is currently measuring MRE retention rates in southern Sudan, in order to gauge when communities will need follow-up sessions.
Clearing mines / UXO for maximum benefit
MAG’s landmine and UXO clearance activities focus on the beneficiaries. MAG Community Liaison teams gather information about socio-economic blockages caused by remnants of conflict – the hospital that is littered with UXO, for example – and report these dangerous areas directly to the technical teams, who will prioritise them for clearance.
By using this integrated approach MAG finds and clears mines and UXO that are causing the greatest negative impact, quickly and efficiently opening up access to land and services for future development.
“I am back home on my own land, knowing that my work will be for my coming generations. I am resettled now at my tribe land; this is ‘Madi’ land, my ancestors’ land. My grandfather is still buried here. Since I arrived back, I’ve planted trees that will give shade and fruit for my grandchildren.”
MAG's MIne Risk Education and returnee survey in Eastern Equatoria is funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, US Department of State.
MAG thanks the following current donors to the Sudan programme: Actiefonds Mijnen Ruimen; AECID, Spanish Government; Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, US Department of State; Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA); Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Guernsey Overseas Aid Commission (GOAC); Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement, US Department of State; UKaid (Department for International Development); UN Mine Action Office.
25 August 2010