Tens of thousands of exhausted people are heading home to the world’s youngest country, fleeing a brutal conflict in neighboring Sudan.
Jams of men, women and children camp near the border between Sudan and South Sudan, and the international community and government are concerned about the protracted conflict.
Fighting between the Sudanese military and rival militias in Sudan killed at least 863 civilians before a seven-day ceasefire began on Monday night.
Years of fighting between government and opposition forces in South Sudan killed nearly 400,000 people and displaced millions before a peace deal was signed nearly five years ago.
Large-scale clashes between the main parties have subsided, but fighting is still going on in some parts of the country.
South Sudan has billions in oil reserves, which it transports to international markets through a pipeline that runs through Sudan in areas controlled by the warring parties.
If that pipeline is damaged, South Sudan’s economy could collapse within months, said Ferenc David Marko, a researcher at the International Crisis Group.
However, the most immediate concern is the tens of thousands of South Sudanese who are returning, not knowing how they will get home to their towns and villages.
Many are unable to afford the trip, aid groups and the government provide funds they can use to help.
About 50,000 people crossed into the border town of Renk, many sheltering in log cabins along the road and in government buildings throughout the town.
Some wander aimlessly in the market, desperately asking foreigners how to get home. People are arriving faster than they can move to new places.
The longer they stay, the greater the risk of fighting between communities, many of which have long-standing grievances stemming from the civil war. Many are frustrated because they don’t know what lies ahead.
Initially, the local authorities wanted to separate South Sudanese returning through Renk based on their place of origin.
Aid groups, however, have pushed back. Aid groups engage in peace dialogue with government and community leaders.
“We are worried (about more violence),” said Johannes William, chairman of the humanitarian arm of the Upper Nile state government.
“The services provided here are limited. We were told that this is a transit center, whoever comes must stay there for two or three days and then transit.
“But now, unfortunately, because of the transportation delay, they’ve been there for over two weeks, three weeks.”