Ethiopia: improved security enables UN agency to visit refugee camp rocked by violence

Ethiopia: improved security enables UN agency to visit refugee camp rocked by violence

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Improved security has enabled the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to visit a camp for Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia that was rocked by violent ethnic clashes last November.

Staff who visited the remote Fugnido camp for the first time in weeks described it as still tense, a spokesman for the agency said today. A number of refugees, mainly from minority ethnic groups who were particularly affected by the clashes in November, were found living in desperate conditions. “They lacked basic supplies and had no shelter from the severe, hot and dry weather at this time of year,” Kris Janowski said. “The visiting team immediately distributed plastic sheeting for shelter, jerry cans, blankets and basic kitchen utensils to the affected group.”

The ethnic conflict, between the Anuak refugees and the Nuer and Dinka communities, left 42, mainly Dinka, refugees dead and scores wounded. Following the November clashes, aid workers were not permitted to go to the volatile camp for security reasons.

On 28 December, 531 refugees were moved from the beleaguered site to Bonga refugee camp, home to nearly 17,000 Sudanese refugees of the Uduk community. Fugnido is home to more than 28,700 people and is the largest of five settlements in southwestern Ethiopia’s Gambella Region, where a total of 85,000 Sudanese are sheltered. The camp was first opened in 1988 but closed in 1991 in the aftermath of civil war that broke out in Ethiopia.