November 12, 2020
© UNICEF/Zerihun Sewunet | The Tigray region faces some of the toughest development challenges in Ethiopia.
GENEVA – The UN Refugee Agency is working with authorities in Sudan to provide lifesaving assistance to more than 7,000 refugees from Ethiopia, who have fled across the border in the past two days.
The women, children and men reaching Sudan are seeking safety after a week of fighting between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray regional government forces.
Inside Sudan, arriving refugees are being temporarily sheltered in transit centres located near the border entry points of Ludgi in Gederef and Hamdayet in Kassala state. Water and meals are being provided. UNHCR and local authorities are jointly screening and registering people.
Expecting more refugee arrivals in the neighbouring countries, UNHCR is stepping up emergency relief preparedness in the region working with governments and partners to put in place measures to respond to additional displacements as the situation evolves.
“We are urging governments in the neighbouring countries to keep their borders open for people forced from their homes,” said UNHCR Regional Bureau Director, Clementine Nkweta-Salami, “While at the same, asking the Ethiopian authorities to take steps that will allow us to keep providing assistance in safety to refugees and internally displaced within Tigray.”
With thousands of refugees arriving at the Sudanese border in the space of 24 hours, and with the conflict appearing to escalate, the number is likely to rise sharply. This will require a significant mobilization of resources to address the needs of those seeking asylum.
Inside Ethiopia, UNHCR is deeply concerned for the more than 96,000 Eritreans living in the four refugee camps and the host community living alongside them, as well as the 100,000 people in Tigray who were already internally displaced at the start of the conflict.
Roads are blocked and electricity, phone and Internet are down, making communication nearly impossible. There is a shortage of fuel, and banking services have halted resulting in a lack of cash.
While camps are not in the immediate conflict zone, UNHCR remains worried about the safety of refugees and humanitarian workers due to the relative proximity of the camps to the fighting and the deteriorating situation. Access to refugees and others affected by the conflict remains a concern, including lack of access to border areas.