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Returning to poverty in the south

Mary Yar Makut, a destitute returnee in Rumbek, southern Sudan, shows the wild fruits she has to survive on, 18 April 2005. While the violence is horrific, starvation is the leading cause of death in the Darfur conflict.

"My name is Mary Yar Makut. I do not know how old I am - maybe 70. I have come back to Rumbek [the designated capital of southern Sudan] after living in Wau [a town northwest of Rumbek] for more than 20 years.

"I left Rumbek three months after the war broke out. We have come back home, but there is nothing to eat. Every day we go into the bush to gather these [wild fruits]. We have no proper shelter. We are cold at night and it rains in our huts. Our situation here is worse [than it was in Wau].

"We have not received help from relief agencies, and I do not know for how long we will live under these conditions. We are happy that there is no more fighting, but we need help to enable us to build homes and grow our own food.

"I am happy because the rain has come. Now we can till the land a bit and get something to eat. I walked from Wau to get here to look for my family, but I could not find them. I have a lot of problems - I have no blankets, no food, no husband and no children. I have been here [in Rumbek] for three months.

"Some of my sons are in Khartoum, and others are in other parts of southern Sudan. They joined the movement [Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)] and I do not know where they are."


A 21-year war in south Sudan officially ended with the signing of a peace agreement between the government and the SPLM/A in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, on 9 January.

The war began in 1983 when rebels took up arms against authorities based in the north to demand greater autonomy for the south. The conflict has left at least two million people dead, uprooted four million more and forced some 600,000 to flee to neighbouring countries.

Some 500,000 refugees and an estimated four million internally displaced persons (IDPs) are expected to return home to southern Sudan, now that the peace agreement has been signed.

According to figures released by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in March, approximately 1,500 IDPs have been returning to south Sudan every week.

9 April 2005

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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