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The BBC's Muliro Telewa in Nairobi
"The first priority will be to settle the youths in local schools"
 real 28k

Thursday, 9 November, 2000, 16:59 GMT
Sudan's 'lost boys' head for US
Sudanese boys at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya
The "lost children" will be hosted by volunteer families
The United States Government and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, have began airlifting more than 2,000 young Sudanese refugee from camps in Kenya for resettlement in the US.

The youths known locally as "the lost boys", although some girls are involved, will be hosted by various volunteer families in several American cities as part of a humanitarian effort by the US and UNHCR.

I'm ready to go abroad, I'll do what they want me to do. As soon as I reach there, I'll concentrate on my studies

Daniel Nyal
The first group of 46 to be placed in Philadelphia arrived on Monday night.

They are among 4,000 mainly boys who ran away from southern Sudan fearing compulsory conscription into the rebel Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) in 1991.

Strict conditions

Social workers at the Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya said a major priority for the host families would be to settle themin local schools.

The American Government has set strict conditions for the boys and girls now aged between 14 and 21 years.

They must not have known relatives or dependants.

They all must be in good health. Some of them are said to have been infected with the deadly HIV virus which is devastating many parts of Africa.

A medical officer at the camp told the BBC that infectious diseases remained a major problem for the young refugees.

"We give them information about HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, and the kind of problems that can affect their resettlement. There can be delays or even cancellation," said Egor Kezanetz.

Cultural shock

UNHCR brushed off fears of a cultural shock for the relocating refugees arguing that they already had experienced more traumatising events in their lives.

SPLA fighters
Many youths escaped compulsory consciption by SPLA

One of the successful applicants, Pat Daniel Nyal, was excited at the prospects of resettling in the US.

"I'm ready to go abroad, I'll do what they want me to do. As soon as I reach there, I'll concentrate on my studies. I want to be a social scientist or pilot. I will choose," said 16-year-old Nyal.

Nyal is among the more than 17,000 Dinka youths who walked hundreds of miles from southern Sudan to Ethiopia fleeing compulsory conscription by the rebels in 1991.

A month after their arrival in Ethiopia, the then military ruler Mengistu Haile Mariam was overthrown and the boys had to walk back to Sudan.

Many of them died enroute with only 4,000 making it to the Kenyan border where they were rescued by the UNHCR.

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See also:

08 Nov 00 | Africa
Sudanese rebels claim Kassala
06 May 00 | Africa
Analysis: Power struggle in Sudan
17 Jan 00 | Africa
Sudan's decades of war
19 Jul 00 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sudan
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