Tribal clashes force 15,000 Lou Nuer people to flee to Ethiopia
GENEVA, March 13 (UNHCR) - Some 15,000 Lou Nuer tribespeople have fled to western Ethiopia from South Sudan in recent weeks to escape clashes with a rival tribe and for fear of reprisal attacks.
"Most are women, children and elderly people who fled from Akobo County in Jonglei state following clashes there earlier this year," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva on Tuesday. "Many of them say they were displaced for weeks in Jonglei before they managed to reach Ethiopia."
Lou Nuer and Murle tribespeople in Jonglei have been engaged in deadly
attacks and counter-attacks over cattle, grazing land and water points for several years. Clashes between these two tribes in December and January have affected some 120,000 people in the region.
Edwards said that fresh fighting between the two tribes was reported last weekend in Akobo, and he added that "UNHCR is concerned at the possibility of further forced displacement."
In Ethiopia, the new arrivals are settling around the border town of Matar in the Gambella region, some 500 kilometres west of Addis Ababa. Most of them are living in makeshift huts, according to UNHCR staff who have visited the area with partner agencies and the Ethiopian authorities.
"The local communities in Matar have been sharing their meagre resources with the new arrivals, including food and water. The influx has stretched water and sanitation facilities beyond capacity," Edwards said. The World Food Programme is extending food distribution to this area to benefit everybody.
UNHCR is helping the Ethiopian authorities to set up a reception centre near Matar, where the new arrivals are being screened by the Ethiopian refugee agency (ARRA) before they are relocated to Fugnido refugee camp, some 110 kms from Gambella.
"We have so far transferred 1,300 new arrivals to the camp, where they are registered as asylum-seekers and issued with food ration cards," Edwards said, adding that UNHCR had also sent additional staff to support the government's registration efforts in Fugnido. Registration is needed to best organize the delivery of protection and assistance to the population in need.
Last week, UNHCR started distributing to families in Fugnido an initial aid kit, including tents, plastic sheets, blankets, kitchen sets and jerry cans from our
stockpile in Gambella. ARRA provides them with food. UNHCR has pre-positioned more relief items, including family tents for those asylum-seekers who will be transferred from the border area to Fugnido.
Fugnido refugee camp was opened in 1993 and hosted some 40,000 refugees at one point. Before the new influx, it was home to some 23,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan. Now these long-staying refugees are hosting and extending their help to the new arrivals from South Sudan.