Committed UNMISS peacekeepers recently visited remote Timsaha, where some 5,000 community members reside peacefully. Their aim: To build confidence before this tranquil border settlement faces an influx of returnees fleeing the Sudan crisis. Photo by Roseline Nzelle Nkwelle/UNMISS.
WESTERN BAHR EL GHAZAL – Since conflict erupted in South Sudan’s northern neighbour, Sudan, like most shared border locations between the two countries, Raja county in Western Bahr El Ghazal, has been an entry point for returnees and refugees seeking protection and safety.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that some 2,000 returnees arrive in Wau from Renk, another entry point in Upper Nile state, every week.
The current situation has created challenges not only in terms of providing humanitarian assistance to displaced populations but also poses serious security threats.
Proactively responding to rising protection needs, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) has increased confidence-building patrols to assess security and humanitarian conditions along the border.
One such committed patrol team of peacekeepers recently visited remote Timsaha, where some 5,000 community members reside less than 50 miles from Sudan.
“This location is important because of its proximity to Sudan,” revealed Norbert Niyodusenga, UNMISS Protection of Civilians Advisor in Wau.
“But it’s also very isolated and difficult to access, particularly during the rainy season. Traveling to Wau, the state capital, means a 135-kilometer motor bike ride,” he added.
Small wonder then that residents here were overjoyed to meet Blue Helmets from the UN Peacekeeping mission.
“We thought we had been forgotten. It is very assuring to be able to speak with you and share our challenges,” declared Mahadma Abhakar Ali, the acting administrative head of Timsaha to the patrol team.
Furthermore, Mr Ali seized the opportunity to highlight problems being faced by residents such as limited healthcare or education options, food and potable water shortages and a lack of recreational activities for children.
Despite difficulties, Timsaha remains a serene, mountainous area covered with lush vegetation. This tranquility, however, may not last for very long.
“Authorities have informed us of a letter received from their counterparts in Sudan announcing the imminent arrival of returnees between November and December,” averred Mr. Niyodusenga. “With increased pressure on limited resources in such an inaccessible area, we have to work overtime with our humanitarian partners to contain the situation and address everybody’s needs if an influx of returnees flock to Timhasa,” he continued.
As the sun began to go down and peacekeepers got ready to return to the UNMISS base, the friendly folk at Timhasa bid them a heartfelt goodbye, resting secure in the knowledge that UNMISS is on the ground to help them.