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Return home from UN protection sites aided by humanitarian and peacekeeping support

The return of internally displaced people to their homes from UN Protection of Civilians (POC) sites is being aided by the provision of humanitarian services outside the camps, according to the head of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer. 

Some 213,000 people live in seven POC sites provided by UNMISS across the country. The population of the largest camp in Bentiu has fallen from around 120,000 in January this year to 114,600 this month.

“Displaced people across the country want to return home and this is happening in Bentiu,” said Mr Shearer who is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan. He added that the security and humanitarian situation will be “factors in terms of getting people to go back home.”

The UNMISS head made the comments on Wednesday following one of his regular meetings with the South Sudanese 1st Vice President Taban Deng.

The increase in the number of people leaving the UNMISS protection site in Bentiu which has been described by Mr Shearer as “encouraging” has been partly driven by the provision of services outside the sites. “Our humanitarian partners provide a range of services inside our Bentiu camp, but now they have stepped outside and are delivering some of the same services to people who are returning home; that is the formula, because if people are confident enough to go home then we can help them and make the transition so much easier.”

The provision of humanitarian assistance has been supported by UNMISS peacekeepers who have conducted confidence-building patrols in areas to which people are returning. And workshops are being conducted by UNMISS human rights and civil affairs experts on reconciliation and conflict resolution as well as the protection of human rights.

The Spokesperson for the 1st Vice President, ChoulLaam said it was “good news that there were people who were confident enough to leave the POCs and relocate back to their homes.”

He added that increased services from aid agencies would provide “more incentive” for people to live outside the protection camps. 

A key pillar of the UNMISS mandate is to protect civilians, which it does both in the POC sites but also in towns and villages across the South Sudan.