Mano River Report: Transport, NFIs and food rations

Sierra Leone Ressettlement Strategy. NCRRR. 2001. "Transportation of registered IDPs : Similar to the support provided by UNHCR for returnees under assisted repatriation, all registered IDPs and displaced returnees will be provided transport assistance to a place in close proximity to their resettlement area" (... )"Resettlement, Food Rations and NFIs: When registered IDPs and returnees enter into the resettlement program they are eligible to receive a two-month ration. The food ration will be collect in bulk from a centralized distribution point within the chiefdom of resettlement"
As explained elsewhere in the Mano Rive Report, by definition, for those who signed up for "voluntary" resettlement, transport is not, and never was, to be provided. But in most instances in the field, there was no secondary transport for anyone, including those whose resettlement was "facilitated". Musa, age 40. Kailahun - April 6, 2002: "To go to Kailahun we have negotiated to only pay a part of the transport, and we have sold a part of our NFI (Non-Food Item resettlement) package to get this money. We have left our names with the driver and will have to pay the balance in two weeks. Today, we are blocked in Kailahun and we have no means to get back to our village ... It is six months since I left the camp in Guinea." These problems of transport are compounded by the fact that people are carrying at least 30 kg of relief supplies, on top of all of their personal belongings. For families with small children who also need to be carried (it is impossible to expect a two year old child to walk for several days) this process is even more difficult. As well, the non-food item resettlement package (NFI) which they received is meant to be designed to help people restart their lives. However, these NFIs have not been adjusted to fit the needs of the situation that most people are facing upon return, which is to rebuild - literally - everything. The Resettlement Package has no seeds or tools, and only one piece of plastic sheeting which might have to be used as the only shelter material for these families going home during the rainy season. The rains make it impossible, even for those who are a little better off, to build mud brick houses as they will not have the chance to dry the bricks enough to use in construction. The only option left for most families will be to make small shelters (baffa) out of dried palm fronds. There are more worrying problems that this resettlement program is making for the people as they begin their lives back in their homes. Not only is transport not being provided to all IDPs, which forces them to sell at least a part of their already limited package, but the food packages are also insufficient given the timing of return and the length of the coming hunger period. Every year from July to September, there is a hunger gap while people await their first harvest. Even this first harvest will most likely be small as there are no seeds and tools included in the return kits. According to Refugees International, "In September 2001 World Vision found that the global malnutrition rate for children under five years of age in Kono was 17%, and severe acute malnutrition was 4.7%. Although Sierra Leone's prior insecurity and lack of health care could account in part for last year's high malnutrition rates, these figures still indicate of the impact of the hungry season." Malnutrition can currently be found in other areas of the country. In Port Loko (Northern Province), an area that saw resettlement take place last year, MSF runs a therapeutic feeding center (TFC) for severely malnourished children. Currently, there are an average of 35 new children admitted every month, and this number is rising. In Moyamba (Northern Province), MSF is also operating a TFC. This is an area in Sierra Leone that has not had security problems for years, where the population has been stable, clinics are functional, and the communities have benefited from livestock and agricultural programs. This TFC is open year round and averages an intake of approximately 25 new children each month. This indicates that food security is a very important problem for Sierra Leoneans, illustrating the possible dangers these families face with only two months worth of food, no agricultural supplies and returning to communities that have been completely devastated. According to UN representatives, this ration was chosen, ironically, as it is easier to carry a two-month supply of food than a six-month supply. In addition to the problems with the packages, the displaced who are arriving home now are too late to be included in the agricultural support programs, as they were not present when registration in the communities took place. On top of that, other agencies are finding themselves with a funding gap for these very needed programs, and realize that they will not be able to provide enough agricultural support to vulnerable families who return home. " ... to cover the vulnerable caseload ... one agency had planned to cover 17,000 vulnerable households but only received funding for 7,500 families ... FAO predicts that tens of thousands of vulnerable households will not receive seeds-and-tools assistance ... Most agencies offering seeds-and-tools programs completed registration last month so that communities could prepare their lands before the start of the rainy season ... An international NGO reported ... that '500 to 1,000 IDP returnees are arriving daily in Koidu, Kono district, and no one is giving them seeds and tools.'" Those people who will be involved in the second phase of resettlement (starting at the end of May) are going to miss a good portion of the planting season, as there is a lot of work that needs to be done to the farms before they are ready for planting. Besides the people who have gone through the UN systems of resettlement and repatriation, there are those people who did not, especially those who were refugees in Guinea, and as a result are not registered in any program, and have no rights to assistance. This will be putting an additional burden on already strained communities, as they will have no resources whatsoever. Returnee woman age 25 Kailahun Town, Sierra Leone April 26, 2002 "They told us to be in the repatriation program we had to first go and register in another camp in the north of Guinea and pay our own transport. But we had no money, so we decided to return to Sierra Leone on foot ... It took us two days because of our heavy load ... As were are not registered we have no right to any aid ... "Each night the children go to the Pakistani UNAMSIL camp where they give out the leftovers from their dinner, some sacks of onions, radishes and frozen potatoes ... In Kailahun we have installed ourselves in this house with another family ... There are 27 of use who sleep in three rooms." This lack of resources and infrastructures in the areas of return could pose serious problems in the coming months. As everything has been destroyed in many areas, people are returning to areas without proper sanitation facilities or safe drinking water. "Approximately 250,000 refugees and IDPs will have returned by July to areas of the country that were thoroughly decimated by the war. Almost 90% of the infrastructure was destroyed, most wells were contaminated, few health clinics remain intact and farmland that has not been worked on for ... years is overgrown by bush." One of the organizations providing transport for the resettlement program (IOM) has itself pointed out this problem: "There is an acute lack of safe drinking water, and no sanitary systems are functioning across the Eastern Province. This is giving way to many waterborne diseases, such as diarrhea, malaria and typhoid. This is a matter of concern as many displaced populations are spontaneously returning to their areas of origin." There are literally tens of thousands of people returning to the Eastern Province, many of them being driven part of the way by IOM, even though they are aware of these problems. Sierra Leone is an endemic area for cholera, and in 2000 many regions of the country, including Eastern Province, were hit by a widespread shigellosis (bloody diarrhea) epidemic. This situation of large groups of people returning to poor water and sanitation conditions, creates the perfect environment for the spread of epidemic diseases. It is not such an easy situation to rectify. With the rainy season approaching, it is not possible to dig new wells until at least September. Also, the road conditions will deteriorate dramatically making it difficult, or impossible in some cases, to reach rural areas to carry out prevention programs. The lack of basic health services also means that early treatment and containment of any such water borne epidemics will be not be possible. In February 2002, MÃ?¨decins Sans FrontiÃ?¨res carried out an assessment in seven chiefdoms of Kono District (Eastern Province). In all but two of these chiefdoms there was no primary health care service existing.