Elizabeth Adak Shindu paid a high price to return home. She walked for 30 days, endured hunger and disease, and used her life savings. When she finally reached this sprawling, dusty town, she found another family living on her land. \nFull of hope, thousands like Shindu have started making their way back to southern Sudan as Africa's longest running civil war ends. They are returning to a land of torched villages, farms riddled with land mines, ransacked schools -- and little help to begin anew. \nMore than 4 million people fled their homes during 21 years of fighting which left this vast region of grasslands, forests, mountains and swamps one of the poorest in the world. Some found sanctuary in neighboring countries, but most have been living in the government-held north where they make up the world's largest displaced population. \nUN officials expect as many as 1.2 million people to return this year after the Arab Muslim-dominated government in Khartoum signed a peace deal with rebels fighting for more autonomy in the mostly African Christian and animist south. But the devastated towns and villages they left behind can't cope with an influx that size, warned Vincent Chordi, head of the UN refugee agency in southern Sudan. \n"We know of places where 100 people arrive a day from the north," said UN humanitarian spokesman Ben Parker. "They miss home. They want to make an early start in getting their land, building their houses and reconnecting with their lives down here." \nIn a region lacking basic infrastructure, UN officials say it could take six to eight months to shift their relief effort from emergency aid to longer-term development to help rebuild the south. UN agencies have appealed for US$1.5 billion in funding for Sudan, most of it for the south. \nIn the meantime, the new arrivals cope as best they can. \nShindu was among an estimated 400,000 who returned last year, encouraged by progress during talks that resulted in the Jan. 9 peace deal, which provides for a national power-sharing government and autonomy in the south. \nThe tall, emaciated mother of nine now sits eating a handful of Marula kernels in front of her tiny grass hut in a makeshift camp built among thorny bushes and scattered palms in this town of 50,000 -- set to become the south's provisional capital. She survives, she says, by foraging for fruit, roots and leaves in the surrounding forests. \nLife was slightly easier in the government-held town of Wau, 210km northeast of Rumbek, to which she fled 19 years ago when rebels attacked government troops here and killed her husband, a policeman. Shindu could make a living there washing dishes and clothes, and selling buckets of water. \nStill, she says, it was worth the tortuous journey to return home. \n"We had to walk for kilometers while carrying children on our backs; we had to walk for days while we were hungry; we had to sleep in the forest when we were very exhausted," Shindu said. "It was a test of our commitment to our native home -- and our faith in God." \nEvery step of the way, there was the fear of setting off one of the millions of land mines, unexploded grenades and shells scattered across the south.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,