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Horn of Africa Update

Horn of Africa Update

7 June 2000

Emergency Appeal

UNHCR is appealing to donors for $7.5 million to cover the most immediate needs of refugees and displaced from the fighting between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In a letter sent to donor governments this week, UNHCR notes that hundreds of thousands of people have reportedly fled their homes in Eritrea. Government officials in Asmara say an estimated 750,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, which began in mid-May. More than 69,000 have fled to neighbouring Sudan, while hundreds of others are arriving in Yemen and Djibouti. The displaced are in addition to another 370,000 Eritreans who were already considered drought-affected before the latest fighting.

In its letter to donors, UNHCR notes that the initial $7.5 million for its emergency operations will cover only the most immediate needs. The requirements will likely be revised upwards as the full scope of the needs emerge.

The emergency appeal seeks $4,667,750 for operations in Sudan, where UNHCR has already operated a dozen refugee camps for nearly three decades. Another $1,493,150 for Eritrea; $670,000 for Djibouti; and $489,100 for Yemen. Inside Eritrea, UNHCR is part of a coordinated humanitarian effort by several agencies which will soon issue a consolidated appeal.

Sectors covered in the $7.5 million emergency budget include:

  • Shelter
    ($2 million) - UNHCR will provide both individual and communal shelters to refugee communities, including plastic sheeting and family tents.
  • Domestic/household needs
    ($1.9 million) - UNHCR will provide various non-food items, including blankets, jerry cans, soap, kitchen sets and hygiene materials.
  • Transport & logistics
    ($1.3 million) - For procurement of vehicles; airlifts; shipping & customs; fuel provision.
  • Food
    ($818,000) - World Food Programme will cover basic needs, but UNHCR will distribute supplementary food to meet special nutritional needs.
  • Health and nutrition
    ($310,000) - UNHCR will help prepare a health care and nutrition plan for refugees to ensure they are screened and treated on arrival and also have access to a safe and adequate water supply as well as basic sanitation facilities.
  • Water and sanitation
    ($441,800) - UNHCR will provide water tankers and improve and install water sources, including storage facilities, pumps and tap stands. UNHCR will repair and construct new latrines and bathrooms in refugee areas.
  • Legal assistance
    ($120,000) - UNHCR will work with local authorities to establish a refugee registration system and ensure safe and unhindered entry of refugees. The special protection needs of refugee women will receive particular attention.
  • Community services
    ($122,700) - UNHCR will identify and document vulnerable groups and develop a counselling system for such groups.


UNHCR is scheduled to begin direct aid flights to Asmara on Friday, when 25,000 blankets will be delivered from emergency stocks in Copenhagen. The Eritrea flights will be in addition to a UNHCR airlift already underway to Sudan.

An additional 75,000 blankets purchased in the region will be airlifted to Asmara beginning next week, along with 25,000 jerry cans and 5,000 pieces of plastic sheeting to provide temporary shelter for the displaced.

Twelve additional heavy vehicles will also be airlifted to Asmara early next week, including six urgently needed water tankers and six tipper trucks.

A total of 40 UNHCR trucks and 20 trailers are already being used by the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) to deliver food and non-food aid to the internally displaced in Eritrea.

UNHCR has so far spent some $300,000 in Eritrea on local purchase of aid supplies, including 600,000 bars of soap. Other local purchases made by UNHCR include 4,500 kitchen sets and 200,000 sanitary napkins for distribution by ERREC to the displaced Eritreans.

UNHCR has also fielded an emergency team with additional light vehicles to Eritrea to boost capacity and to assist with the delivery of humanitarian aid to the internal refugees in the Gash-Barka border zone.


As of Wednesday morning, UNHCR Sudan had registered more than 69,000 arrivals from Eritrea since mid-May. These include 33,800 at Laffa, 20,900 at Gulsa, 11,000 at Gergef and 3,600 at Shagarab. About 1,000 people were reported to have arrived on Tuesday at Laffa. Many of them were originally from the Tesseney area and had spent the past several days in an agricultural community about 10 kms inside Eritrea. Many of them came on foot and said that fighting in the area was forcing people to flee into Sudan. Staff and local authorities in Kassala reported hearing the sound of shelling on the Eritrean side on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and occasional blasts after that through 3 p.m.

Opposition by local leaders at Shagarab prevented UNHCR on Tuesday from moving the 11,020 refugees currently at the makeshift Gergef encampment. UNHCR was still discussing the transfer with authorities on Wednesday. Shagarab is the site of three camps - one for old-case refugees, one for internally displaced people, and a new one for the new arrivals.

Since June 1, three UNHCR airlifts to Sudan have delivered a total of 13,500 plastic sheets, 5,000 kitchen sets and 24,000 blankets. The most recent flight was on Tuesday and the next one is scheduled for the weekend and will carry 14,000 blankets, four health kits and more plastic sheeting. A fifth flight has also been planned for the middle of next week, with five hospital tents, more blankets and plastic sheeting. In addition, 2,000 tents have arrived by sea. UNHCR has distributed 7,000 jerry cans from in-country stocks.UNHCR is seeking up to 10,000 tents.

Yemen and Djibouti

A total of 538 asylum seekers, mostly Eritreans, have arrived by boat in Yemen. There area also Ethiopians and Somalis among the arrivals.

A total of 1,020 Eritreans have arrived overland in Djibouti, where UNHCR has also positioned emergency staff.