Ethiopia: UNHCR strengthening aid for Sudanese fleeing volatile Blue Nile State
The volatile security situation in Sudan's Blue Nile State continues to drive civilians out of their homes into exile in Ethiopia, a week after fighting broke out between the Sudan Armed Forces and members of the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (North).
Following reports Tuesday of renewed clashes in the Sudan side of Kurmuk, 4,000 people, and the largest number on a single day, crossed the border into Kurmuk, western Ethiopia. The majority were women and children including some 200 of the children arriving separated from their families or completely unaccompanied. Many brought livestock and other personal property, fearing an escalation in the fighting that would prevent their early return.
There are an estimated 20,000 Sudanese refugees who crossed into Ethiopia over the past week. Many of the refugees along the border areas who had initially been reluctant to go to the Sherkole refugee camp are now willing to relocate. So far, we have transferred 3,500 refugees to the camp, which is located some 80 kilometres south of the border.
Despite the volatile security situation, many refugees wish to remain near the border to enable them to quickly return home to harvest their crops and tend to their livestock as soon as the situation allows. Others say they are hoping to be reunited with relatives they were separated from during their flight before making the decision to settle further away in a camp.
UNHCR continues the delivery of assistance together with the government, NGOs, sister agencies such as IOM, WFP and UNICEF who are supporting the emergency in different sectors. The World Food Program has started distribution of dry rations for up to 9,000 refugees at the border reception centers in Kurmuk, Bamza, Gizen and Teibe.
At Sherkole camp, new arrivals receive hot meals provided by Ethiopia's Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA). We are also working with our partners to expand the water services in the camp as its population grows. This involves using two water tankers while drilling additional boreholes and rehabilitating shallow wells. Before the current crisis, Sherkole camp was home to some 4,000 Sudanese refugees who had fled during the north-south civil war. Work on preparing a new camp in Tongo, near Sherkole, is also ongoing to accommodate the growing numbers.
With western Ethiopia experiencing rain and the cool weather, UNHCR has mobilized 5,000 family tents for shelter. Meanwhile, we have started the distribution of the 5,000 kitchen sets, an equal amount of plastic sheeting, as well as some 10,000 blankets and 7,500 sleeping mats.
To finance this sudden refugee influx, UNHCR has advanced nearly US$3 million from its reserves and is planning an appeal for US$14 million.
Within Sudan itself, an estimated 35,000 families have been displaced from Damazin the capital of the Blue Nile, according to the Sudanese Red Cresent Society, which is the only humanitarian actor on the ground.