Hundreds more refugees flee Sudan's Blue Nile for Ethiopia

Briefing Notes, 28 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 28 October 2011, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Aerial bombings in Sudan's Blue Nile state are driving a new wave of refugees into Ethiopia. In the last four days, nearly 2,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived in western Ethiopia amid tightening security at the border area of Kurmuk. Kurmuk, one of several refugee entry points into the country is also considered to be the busiest.

The new arrivals are mostly women, children and the elderly. They tell us they fled bombings and fear of bombings by Antonov planes in areas including Bau, Sali and Dinduro, all located between Kurmuk and the Blue Nile capital, Damazine. There are also reports that armed militia on the Sudanese side of the Kurmuk border have warned the community to leave the area, possibly in preparation for a ground offensive.

Some of the new arrivals said they had been walking for up to three weeks. One man arrived with shrapnel wounds and was taken to a hospital in nearby Assosa. Other refugees said they lived for several weeks in the bushes in Dinduro, which had been occupied by armed groups, before making the 64-km journey to Kurmuk. Refugees from an area called Derring reported abductions of women and girls six weeks ago by armed militia, and that two girls died after being raped repeatedly.

With the current situation in Blue Nile, more refugees are expected to arrive in Ethiopia. Refugees are being encouraged to relocate to Tongo camp, about 200 km from Kurmuk. Others are at the Sherkole camp, or among host communities near the border. We estimate that 28,700 refugees have fled Blue Nile state since fighting began in early September.

UNHCR is working with the Ethiopian authorities to expand Tongo camp in anticipation of a further influx. With ongoing construction Tongo will be able to host some 7,000 refugees. Together with its government counterpart, the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the President of the Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State, UNHCR is investigating the feasibility of additional camp sites.

UNHCR has appealed for US$10 million to meet the urgent needs of refugees from Blue Nile State and to support Ethiopia at a time when it is also hosting more than 174,000 Somali refugees (90,000 of whom arrived this year). So far we have received five percent, or US$500,000 for the Sudan emergency, and urge the international community to step up their response to this growing crisis.

For further information on this topic, please contact:

  • In South Africa, Pumla Rulashe on mobile +27 82 377 5665

  • In Nairobi UNHCR regional office, Vivian Tan on mobile +254 705 620 408

  • In Geneva, Andrej Mahecic on mobile +41 79 200 7617

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

International Women's Day 2013

Gender equality remains a distant goal for many women and girls around the world, particularly those who are forcibly displaced or stateless. Multiple forms of discrimination hamper their enjoyment of basic rights: sexual and gender-based violence persists in brutal forms, girls and women struggle to access education and livelihoods opportunities, and women's voices are often powerless to influence decisions that affect their lives. Displaced women often end up alone, or as single parents, battling to make ends meet. Girls who become separated or lose their families during conflict are especially vulnerable to abuse.

On International Women's Day, UNHCR reaffirms its commitment to fight for women's empowerment and gender equality. In all regions of the world we are working to support refugee women's participation and leadership in camp committees and community structures, so they can assume greater control over their lives. We have also intensified our efforts to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence, with a focus on emergencies, including by improving access to justice for survivors. Significantly, we are increasingly working with men and boys, in addition to women and girls, to bring an end to dangerous cycles of violence and promote gender equality.

These photographs pay tribute to forcibly displaced women and girls around the world. They include images of women and girls from some of today's major displacement crises, including Syria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali and Sudan.

International Women's Day 2013

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

What would you bring with you if you had to flee your home and escape to another country? More than 1 million Syrians have been forced to ponder this question before making the dangerous flight to neighbouring Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq or other countries in the region.

This is the second part of a project by photographer Brian Sokol that asks refugees from different parts of the world, "What is the most important thing you brought from home?" The first instalment focused on refugees fleeing from Sudan to South Sudan, who openly carried pots, water containers and other objects to sustain them along the road.

By contrast, people seeking sanctuary from the conflict in Syria must typically conceal their intentions by appearing as though they are out for a family stroll or a Sunday drive as they make their way towards a border. Thus they carry little more than keys, pieces of paper, phones and bracelets - things that can be worn or concealed in pockets. Some Syrians bring a symbol of their religious faith, others clutch a reminder of home or of happier times.

The Most Important Thing: Syrian Refugees

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

When fighting erupted in Kormaganza, Blue Nile state, in September last year, 80-year-old Dawa Musa's family decided to flee to the neighbouring village of Mafot. Dawa was too frail to make the two-day journey by foot, so her son, Awad Kutuk Tungud, hid her in the bush for three days while he moved his wife, Alahia, and nine children to safety. Awad returned for his mother and carried her to Mafot, where the family remained in relative safety for several months - until artillery began shelling the village.

Awad again fled with his family - this time across the border to South Sudan. For 15 gruelling days, he carried both his elderly mother and his daughter Zainab on his back, until they reached the border crossing at Al Fudj in February. UNHCR transported the family to Jamam refugee camp in South Sudan's Upper Nile state. They lived in safety for seven months until heavy rains caused flooding, making it difficult for UNHCR to bring clean water to the camp and bringing the threat of highly contagious waterborne diseases.

UNHCR set up a new camp in Gendrassa, located 55 kilometres from Jamam and on higher ground, and began the relocation of 56,000 people to the new camp. Among them were Awad and his family. Awad carried his mother once again, but this time it was to their new tent in Gendrassa camp. Awad has plans to begin farming. "Come back in three months," he said, "and there will be maize growing."

A Family On the Move in South Sudan

Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.
Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee InfluxPlay video

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee Influx

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in early May, fighting continues between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The renewed conflict has forced thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Ethiopia.
South Sudan: Here and HelpingPlay video

South Sudan: Here and Helping

The South Sudanese town of Bor was among the worst hit in the latest violence in the country. These newly displaced people found shelter in an Ethiopian refugee camp.