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UNHCR, partners scale-up relief efforts as cross-border movements from Sudan increase

Briefing notes

UNHCR, partners scale-up relief efforts as cross-border movements from Sudan increase

2 May 2023
UNHCR staff pre-register recently arrived Sudanese refugees.

UNHCR staff pre-register recently arrived Sudanese refugees in Koufroun site, Chad.

Over 100,000 refugees are estimated to be among those who have now fled Sudan to neighbouring countries, including Sudanese refugees, South Sudanese returning home prematurely and others who were themselves refugees in Sudan.

Alongside governments and partners, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has determined an initial planning figure of more than 800,000 refugees and returnees that may flee Sudan to neighbouring countries.

The figures are projections used for financial and operational planning. Of the total, around 600,000 would be Sudanese refugees, as well as refugees hosted by Sudan seeking safety. In addition, more than 200,000 South Sudanese and other refugees hosted by Sudan might return home prematurely.

UNHCR will launch an Interagency Regional Refugee Response Plan that will include financial needs. We are discussing details with partners in each country and plan to publish the appeal as soon as possible.

Countries neighbouring Sudan impacted by this new emergency are already hosting large refugee and internally displaced populations. The majority remain severely underfunded.

Asylum countries will need additional support to provide protection and assistance. Among the urgent needs are water, food, shelter, health care, relief items, gender-based violence response and prevention, and child protection services.

The most significant cross-border movements so far have been Sudanese refugees arriving in Chad and Egypt, and South Sudanese returning to South Sudan. Most new arrivals in Chad and South Sudan are women and children.

While UNHCR has large operations in many neighbouring countries, last week, we deployed additional emergency teams and activated our global supply chain, including orders for some 70,000 core relief items from our global stockpiles for Chad and South Sudan. 

In Chad, some new arrivals are still staying out in the open or under trees, while others are sleeping in makeshift shelters close to the border. More than 21,000 refugees have so far been verified, physically counted and identified, and we are continuing verification and registration exercises.

In South Sudan, those arriving at the border include older people, people with disabilities, pregnant women, female heads of households with young children and large families. UNHCR has set up a transit centre where new arrivals can receive essential protection services, child protection, family reunification and telecommunication services to contact family and plan onward travel – as well as emergency relief items. 

In the Central African Republic, we estimate that approximately 6,000 refugees have now crossed the border, where UNHCR immediately deployed an emergency team. Registration should start soon and relocation assessments are underway to move people away from the border to more secure locations.

In Ethiopia, most arrivals have been third-country nationals alongside some refugees. UNHCR has deployed teams to the two main border crossings in Amhara and Benishangul Gumuz regions.

In Egypt, UNHCR with other UN agencies is undertaking a mission to assess the needs of those arriving from Sudan and explore the best ways to meet their needs and to inform planning for possible future arrivals. Aid is being delivered by the UN and distributed by the Egyptian Red Crescent to those who arrive, including water, hygiene and sanitary kits, wheelchairs, food and masks and gloves. UNHCR is leading interagency coordination in collaboration with the Government. Initial estimates of arrivals have been revised up by the Government to 40,000 Sudanese and 2,300 foreign nationals.

Inside Sudan, the suspension of some programmes is likely to exacerbate risks faced by those who rely on humanitarian aid to survive. The refugee community and government counterparts have reported to us that over 60,000 refugees have fled Khartoum to find safety in the refugee camps in White Nile, Gedaref and Kassala States since the crisis started unfolding two weeks ago.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the situation in Darfur, where the humanitarian situation remains dire. We fear that current hostilities may fuel pre-existing ethnic and intercommunal tensions over land and access to resources and trigger greater displacement.

We remain engaged in advocacy with governments to seek assurances that asylum seekers will still be able to cross into neighbouring countries even without passports or other documentation.

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