With Sudan influx continuing, Ethiopia sees opening of an additional refugee camp

Briefing Notes, 7 October 2011

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 7 October 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

In western Ethiopia UNHCR opened a new camp this week to accommodate refugees fleeing the continuing hostilities across the border in Sudan's Blue Nile state.

The new camp is located at the town of Tongo, about 200 kilometres southeast of the main border entry point for refugees at Kurmuk. It opened on Wednesday, and so far 533 refugees have been moved there from Kurmuk as well as from the border areas at Bamza and Almahal. The camp has capacity for 3000 people, with a possibility for further expansion.

Over the past month more than 27,500 people have fled Blue Nile state to Ethiopia, amid fighting between the Sudanese army and rebels of the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army North. Around 16,500 of these arrivals are staying among local communities near the border entry points. The rest are in camps.

With refugees still arriving, UNHCR is working with the Ethiopian government and the International Organization for Migration to speed the moving of refugees to safer locations currently this is either to Tongo or temporarily to transit centers that UNHCR has been developing for people reluctant to move into camps.

At the beginning of the influx, the new arrivals were mainly women, children and the elderly generally in good health. Men were staying behind to look after properties. Recently, however, UNHCR staff at the border points have seen larger numbers of men arriving, and more injuries. We had recent cases involving a young man who had sustained bullet wounds, and a woman injured by shrapnel. Another man had lost his legs in a bomb explosion. All three were taken to the UNHCR health center in Sherkole camp for treatment.

Refugees are also bringing livestock with them and carrying belongings to help them make a living in Ethiopia, for example grain mills or furniture. We plan to move around 400 refugees daily from the border to Tongo where UNHCR, Ethiopia's Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs and its implementing partners are providing protection and assistance, including shelter, water and sanitation as well as food. As development of the site continues, 80 of the 380 available family sized tents have been been erected. Up to 40,000 litres of water per day is ready for use while additional water sources are being sought.

UNHCR is also purchasing a month's supply of fire-wood for cooking and heating while it investigates alternative environmentally friendly sources of energy.

Meanwhile immunization for 438 children, including 410 new arrivals and 28 locals in Kurmuk was completed at the end of last week. Immunizing of children will continue at Tongo refugee camp during registration. The other main camp in the area, at Sherkole, reached full capacity (8,702 people) on Tuesday.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

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