Ethiopia: UNHCR and partners seek US$18.3m to help Blue Nile refugees

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 27 September 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR and our partner agencies are today launching a formal appeal for funds to help refugees fleeing into western Ethiopia from Sudan's Blue Nile State. The joint appeal by UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the International Organization for Migration amounts to some US$18.3 million and is intended to help up to 35,000 refugees.

UNHCR's share of this requirement is $10 million.

Since 3 September, when the influx started, an estimated 25,000 refugees have found refuge in Ethiopia. With hostilities still ongoing in Sudan's Blue Nile State we expect the numbers to continue rising. New aerial bombings were reported yesterday, following others on Wednesday and Friday of last week.

The refugees have mainly been entering Ethiopia via the Kurmuk border point, where on Friday 1,500 crossings were reported. Refugees told our staff they had fled fighting around Damazine, the Blue Nile State capital, and had walked for up to a week to reach safety.

In recent weeks UNHCR has seen people moving back and forth across the border, but the profile of this population is changing: Today, more of those coming across are families carrying household belongings and bringing livestock with them.

Most of the refugees are staying in local communities around Kurmuk. Many are sleeping in the open, presenting increased risk of illness and disease. An additional concern is the safety of refugees in villages near Kurmuk, because of the area's proximity to locations in Sudan where bombing is ongoing.

UNHCR and the Government Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs are seeking to relocate refugees to the camp at Sherkole camp, some 50 kilometres to the southeast, where basic services and better protection can be provided. So far more than 3000 people have been moved and the pace of relocations is expected to increase as more refugee community leaders come forward to request relocation. IOM is helping transfer refugees and their belongings to Sherkole.

With more refugees arriving, the Ethiopian Government has allocated land to build two transit centers near the main border entry points. Farmatsore transit centre will accommodate approximately 3,000 new arrivals entering Ethiopia through the Kurmuk border; and Adimazin transit camp near the Gizen border crossing will accommodate another 5,000 people. Another site, Tonga, is also being developed as a camp.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Ethiopia: Kisut Gebre Egziabher on mobile +251 911 208 901
  • In Ethiopia: Pumla Rulash on mobile +251 9300 13066.
  • In Geneva, Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba on mobile +41 79 249 34 83