Page last updated at 11:35 GMT, Friday, 8 July 2005 12:35 UK

Sudan trek diary II: Slow progress

Bill Lorenz

Bill Lorenz of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is keeping a diary for the BBC News website as he helps thousands of Sudanese trek home to Raga in the south-west, following a deal to end a 21-year war.

He is transporting the most vulnerable on trucks through forests and swamps in a race against time, as the heavy July rains are due.

Thursday 7 July

It's been a mixed kind of day. Aden, the IOM doctor on this operation, tells me an elderly man died yesterday.

Woman leading blind man
I told him the group was making this journey voluntarily

He'd been sick for a very long time and had developed a chest infection. The man had been with a group further ahead and Aden found out only when they passed a grave.

This is the second death of the week. A six-day old baby girl died on Tuesday of tetanus. Aden and his team had worked all day to save her. It was hard to take.

It's weird how life works. The day she died, another baby girl was born - the 20th birth of the journey. Mother and daughter are doing just fine.


I had an interesting call today on the satellite phone - our link with the outside world. It was from a body that monitors interactions between militias in Sudan and civilian populations.

Trekkers building a bridge in Sudan

A man asked me where we where. They had heard that a militia had forced a group of internally displaced people out of Mabia camp, near Tambura - where they had been living for nearly four years - and they were now lost somewhere in the forest.

A plane had been searching for us, but couldn't see us.

I told him the group was making this journey voluntarily - and no we weren't lost. Strange how information gets interpreted along the way.

We may not be lost but our progress is slow. Slower than we had anticipated and we've had to put back an expected date for our arrival at Deim Zubeir to the third week of July.

We'll probably have to ask for another food drop by air for sometime next week as people's rations will be getting low by then.


More problems with the trucks - and now one of them is stuck in mud and is being dug out.

All of this means we are able to transport fewer people now than before - between 700 and 800. So more people are having to walk.

My other memory of Tambura - it had great mangoes

The upside is we have crossed one of the bridges that have had to be built before Kuru.

My worst fear is that one day a truck full of people will not make it over one of these impromptu bridges. They are built from logs laid out over the water and only that.

We still haven't reached Kuru yet.

Yesterday, I sent Hassan - travelling with his two wives and his children - ahead with two IOM staff, Andrew and Abbas, to set up camp. But the road hadn't been opened as far as we thought. We all spent the night along the roadside.

Kuru is 28km from where we were last camping. Now that the whole road is opened, people are strung along the length of this route.

The two motorcycles we have are being used to go up and down the road to check if people need medical assistance.

We should reach Kuru by nightfall. I hope there are no more marshes along the way.

Below, Bill answers some questions sent in by BBC News website readers.

John Carey in the US asks: What is your biggest fear on this journey?

As I say in today's diary, my biggest fear is that the logs that make up these impromptu bridges that are built to get us over rivers, will not take the weight of the trucks and that a truck will fall through and into the water with people on board. It happened once but it was OK.

Humanitarian organisations working here don't have the money they need to carry out their operations

As far as the IDPs (internally displaced person) are concerned, their biggest fear is the rains will stop them from moving.

But I think we are beyond that point. We may be moving slowly, but we are moving surely and the rains may slow us down, but they won't stop us.

And what can we do here in the West to help?

The situation in southern Sudan is on a back burner for the international community. Focus tends to be on emergencies. But southern Sudan is coming out of an emergency and needs all the help it can get.

There is a lot of work to be done here in terms of helping people get back to their homes and in rebuilding this part of the country.

Humanitarian organisations working here don't have the money they need to carry out their operations. We need resources to do what is needed.

David Boon in the US asks: What has become of Tambura with the end of the war? Do they have a realistic civil service and governing administration now? When I worked in Tambura in 1998 it seemed the most remote spot on earth and we never took the "road" north towards Wau, as that was in the direction of government troops. The SRRA (the humanitarian wing of the former SPLM rebels) was in charge, nominally, but there was very little order to maintain.

Tambura is OK. It is a small African town with a main street.

There has been some reconstruction. The Tambura community has been very supportive of this operation.

Before, Tambura was, as you said, very remote. Even for the people there. There was no beyond Tambura. But now, there is another destination beyond Tambura, a road through to Deim Zubeir and they like that thought.

In terms of government, there is an SPLM commissioner there now.

My other memory of Tambura - it had great mangoes.

Do you have any other questions about the journey or want Bill to explain anything in his diary? If so use the form below

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