As the conflict in Sudan intensifies, the small border town of Jau, situated in South Sudan’s Ruweng Administrative Area, continues to be a pivotal transit point for refugees and South Sudanese returning home.
Braving hazardous terrain and the risks posed by armed factions, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) recently sent a mission to Jau to assess the situation of the host community and newcomers alike.
“We used to welcome the occasional family leaving violence in Sudan’s Nuba mountain region, but now we are witnessing daily migration due to the escalating conflict across the border, especially since it seems to be inching closer to South Sudan,” said Riek Awer, a community leader in town.
Those arriving in Jau are primarily refugees seeking assistance from South Sudan’s Commission for Refugee Affairs and humanitarian actors operating in the area, with most of them finding refuge in the Yida or Ajoung Thok refugee camps. South Sudanese returnees, on the other hand, are on a quest to reconnect with long-lost relatives, reclaim ancestral land, or temporarily settle in camps for internally displaced persons.
Jeremiah Gatwech, an assistant with the UNMISS Protection, Transition and Reintegration Section, described the challenges involved.
“The rough terrain we navigated to come here mirrors the arduous journeys of those heading in the opposite direction. Their travels, undertaken with scarce food and water supplies, speaks volumes about what they are running away from,” he said.
Jane Lanyero Kony, Head of the peacekeeping mission’s Field Office in Bentiu, emphasizes the importance of patrols to isolated and infrequently accessed areas.
“It’s crucial to maintain a continuous overview of the status of displaced individuals throughout South Sudan. To achieve this, we must interact directly with the communities sheltering or aiding them,” she stated.
Khan Daweng, a Jau resident, would certainly agree with her assessment.
“The presence of UNMISS is vital. Right now, those who reach Jau are safe from violence, but we fear what might happen if the fighting in Sudan comes even closer to our border,” he said.
In recent months, peacekeepers stationed in Ruweng have made Jau a regular destination for their patrols. They continue to assist the government in ensuring the safety of all those forced to flee.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS).