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UNHCR concerned about the situation of a group of Sudanese refugees in Amhara region; looking for a solution to avoid further worsening

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UNHCR concerned about the situation of a group of Sudanese refugees in Amhara region; looking for a solution to avoid further worsening

28 May 2024

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is very worried about a group of Sudanese refugees who have now been staying by the side of a road near the Awlala refugee site for more than three weeks. On 1 May, some 1,000 refugees left the site in the Amhara region, in Ethiopia, in protest over concerns regarding security incidents and insufficient services. Some members of this group recently began a hunger strike, which is a matter of deep concern, in the broader context of the volatile security situation.

UNHCR teams together with the Ethiopian government’s Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS) have continuously engaged with refugees to listen to their concerns and help identify solutions to the situation.

While we fully understand their legitimate request for better security and services, we are concerned that their protest along the road, their stay in unsanitary conditions, and the hunger strike initiated by some risk further increasing their vulnerability.

Our initial visits to the road site allowed us to check on the well-being of refugees, including helping with medical cases. A nurse from one of UNHCR’s partners assisted with a delivery despite the difficult conditions. However, visits were interrupted after a group of youth protested our presence.

We have continued to engage with refugees and ensured water, healthcare and all services available at the Awlala site remain accessible to the group. Some families have also gone back and forth between the roadside and the site to get water and food. The authorities have also been providing this group with security from the first day they left the site.

We are encouraging the group to return to Awlala site, while discussions with the authorities continue towards finding a longer-term solution to the situation.

The security environment on the ground remains deeply challenging, including for our own teams and humanitarian workers.  Last Friday, a severe security incident resulted in the death of an NGO worker after their vehicle was hit by gunfire restricting movements in the area.

We welcome the reopening of the road today, which will allow for the food distribution that had been planned to take place last week to be rescheduled in the coming days.

UNHCR and partners continue to provide basic services such as medical care, water, and education at both Awlala and Kumer, the two sites established by the government to host refugees in the Amhara region.

Over the past three weeks, the Ethiopian government has provided additional security, including deploying federal police officers and increased patrols in and around both of these sites. UNHCR is also building a police post in Kumer to strengthen the presence of security personnel.

We renew our call for additional financial support. Ethiopia remains one of the most underfunded operations globally, and the interagency humanitarian response to the influx of refugees from Sudan is currently funded at only 11 percent of its overall needs. This is inevitably leading to significant gaps, particularly in the areas of protection, health, water and sanitation, and education.

We continue to advocate with the Ethiopian authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of refugees on their territory and for the international community to support the refugee response in the country.

As of the end of April 2024, Kumer refugee site hosted a population of some 6,000 people, mainly from Sudan, Eritrea and South Sudan while Awlala refugee site housed a population of over 2,000 people, mainly Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees.

Ethiopia now hosts over 1 million refugees making it the second largest refugee hosting country in Africa.


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