16 June 2009The joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will do all it can to help civilians who have started returning voluntarily to their villages in the strife-torn Sudanese region to rebuild their livelihoods, a senior official pledged today. The joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will do all it can to help civilians who have started returning voluntarily to their villages in the strife-torn Sudanese region to rebuild their livelihoods, a senior official pledged today.Deputy Joint Special Representative Henry Anyidoho said it was critical to provide returnees with the necessary support so that their returns are not temporary, as he addressed community leaders in the West Darfur village of Seraf Jidad, where over 2,000 families have returned in the past two months. “We will take up the challenge – UNAMID, together with UN agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations], as well as the Government – to see how quickly we can come to your aid,” he said.Mr. Anyidoho said priority tasks included improving security, providing water and rehabilitating infrastructure in villages such as Seraf Jidad, which is located some 45 kilometres southwest of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.As many as 8,000 families resided in Seraf Jidad and its surrounding area until January last year, when fighting between Sudanese Government forces and members of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) forced residents to flee.About two months ago, many residents started returning after local humanitarian officials promised better security and offered plastic sheeting and other materials for the rebuilding of homes.Mr. Anyidoho, who was accompanied by colleagues from the Mission, made a similar visit last week to the village of Donki Dreisa, where a number of people have returned. Set up by the Security Council in 2007, UNAMID is tasked with protecting civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million forced from their homes since violence erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and their allied Janjaweed militiamen.