Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan on November 18, 2020 | Photo: AP Photo/Marwan Ali/picture-alliance
Ethiopian refugees in eastern Sudan on November 18, 2020 | Photo: AP Photo/Marwan Ali/picture-alliance

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has sounded the alarm on the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region. The organization warned in a statement published on November 17 that thousands of refugees are fleeing ongoing fighting in the area each day, to seek safety in eastern Sudan.

UNHCR has described what is happening in Ethiopia's Tigray region at the moment, as a full-scale humanitarian crisis. In numbers not seen for two decades, they say thousands of refugees are fleeing ongoing fighting in Tigray every day, in order to seek safety in neighboring eastern Sudan.

In a statement released on November 17, the UN agency stressed that the the numbers of those on the move has not been registered in this part of the country for the past two decades.

Women, men and children have been crossing the border at the rate of 4,000 per day since November 10, quickly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground, UNHCR said.

Based on data updated as of Tuesday, at least 27,000 people have crossed into Sudan through the Hamdayet border in Kassala State, the Lugdi in Gedaref State and a new location further south at Aderai border where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend.

'Critical need to select new sites for refugees'

UNHCR, together with its partners, is supporting the Sudanese government in response activities, intensifying humanitarian assistance near the border, given that the needs of people who are fleeing are constantly increasing.

Humanitarian agencies "continue to distribute relief items including blankets and sleeping mats. The World Food Program is providing food and high protein biscuits. Hot meals are being provided by Muslim Aid," the organization said in the statement.

Sudan's health ministry with support from the Sudan Red Crescent have set up two clinics and are conducting health and nutrition screenings and medical consultations and referrals.

Since Saturday, UNHCR has so far relocated 2,500 refugees from the border to Um Raquba settlement site as renovation works continue. "There is a critical need to identify more sites so that refugees can be relocated away from the border and can access assistance and services," the UN agency stressed.

Obstacles to humanitarian response in Tigray

UNHCR explained that in Tigray, in Ethiopia, the lack of electricity, telecommunications and access to fuel and cash continue to severely hamper any humanitarian response. After nearly two weeks of conflict, reports of greater numbers of internally displaced grow daily, while the lack of access to those in need, coupled with the inability to move goods to the region, remain major obstacles to providing assistance.

The conflict represents moreover a source of concern "for the Eritrean refugee population of nearly 10,000 in Tigray, who are reliant on assistance from UNHCR and partners. A potential for further displacement of refugees inside the country is increasingly a real possibility."

The UN agency renewed its "call for peace," urging "all parties to respect the safety and security for all civilians in Tigray."


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