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Horn of Africa Update

Horn of Africa Update

25 May 2000


UNHCR has registered 20,066 Eritreans who fled to Sudan over the past week, fearing an Ethiopian offensive in Eritrea.

The total includes 629 Eritreans who were registered on Wednesday at Gerghef, one of three encampments along the Sudanese border.

Most of the people at Gerghef and nearby Laffa and Shagarba in Sudan's Kassala region came from Tesseney in western Eritrea, which was reported to have been abandoned by its more than 20,000 residents after Ethiopian troops entered Eritrea May 12.

Officials in Eritrea say 20,000 to 40,000 people have left their homes and are scattered along the Eritrean border prepared to move into Sudan if the fighting worsens.

As an emergency measure, UNHCR is airlifting beginning next week tents from its stockpiles in the Balkans - 1,000 from Kosovo and another 1,000 from the FYR of Macedonia.

Meanwhile, the dispatch of urgently needed supplies from UNHCR warehouses in Khartoum to the newly arrived refugees continues. A truck carrying 200 tents and 800 jerry cans and a water tanker left Khartoum on Wednesday for the six- to seven-hour trip to Kassala.

As of Wednesday, UNHCR had distributed 2,416 jerry cans and 1,600 tents in the encampments in a region where there is little vegetation and temperatures soar to as high as 40 degrees Celsius during daytime.

UNHCR also is requesting the Sudanese Commission on Refugees to release six of UNHCR's 36 trucks for the relief effort for the newly arrived Eritreans.

The fleet of trucks, administered by the Commission, is used in a dozen camps UNHCR has been running for 160,000 Eritrean refugees for three decades. A repatriation programme for these refugees has been set back by the resumption of hostilities.

Some of the trucks intended for the repatriation programme that was to start this month are now helping transport food supplies from the World Food Programme for the new arrivals. In addition, UNHCR is also providing fuel for the Sudanese Red Crescent's ambulances and water tankers.

Before WFP began distributing food this week, UNHCR was paying for cooked meals for the arrivals.

Also on Wednesday, the Sudanese Red Cross confirmed that UNHCR medicine had been released by the commission from warehouses at Es Showak for use in the encampments.

UNHCR is also providing funds for medical treatment of refugees. The Islamic African Relief Agency, a UNHCR implementing partner, has established a presence in Kassala to help in the health sector.


The Eritrean capital, Asmara, appeared calm today. Officials were awaiting Ethiopia's response to Eritrea's offer Wednesday of an Eritrean withdrawal from areas in Ethiopia which were occupied at the beginning of the current war two years ago.

Following approval by the Eritrean government, an inter-agency mission is arranging a visit to areas where people displaced by the fighting have converged.

The Ethiopian thrust into Eritrea has reportedly forced more than 500,000 people from their homes, Eritrean officials say. In addition, 300,000 Eritreans have reportedly been displaced by drought.