Officials from UNAfrican Union mission visit returnees in North Darfur
29 June 2009Officials from the joint United Nations-African Union mission have visited areas of North Darfur to verify reports of the spontaneous return of refugees and displaced persons to their villages, and to assess their living conditions. Residents in the village of Masri told the team, led by Head-of-Office Miguel Martin, that some 2,300 families have effectively returned to the area, according to the mission, known as UNAMID.Before the conflict in Darfur began in 2003, Masri’s population was more than 2,500 households, while others were displaced to places such as Kabkabiya, Nyala and Kutum town. People have been returning to Masri since mid-2007, and more displaced have expressed the willingness to return, the team was told. However, lack of transportation is the main impediment preventing the displaced from returning.Villagers also told the team that the returnees are receiving food and other aid from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). They requested additional assistance for water, health facilities, plastic sheeting, food and education.The team also made a similar visit to El Manara following its visit to Masri on 27 June. UNAMID was established by the Security Council in 2007 to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since violence erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and their allied Janjaweed militiamen.