United Nations agencies and their aid partners today appealed for $18.3 million to help tens of thousands of refugees who are fleeing into western Ethiopia to escape violence in Sudan’s Blue Nile state.
The joint appeal by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and their partner agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), is intended to help up to 35,000 refugees.
Both Blue Nile and Southern Kordofan states, which lie next to Sudan’s border with South Sudan, have been the scene of deadly fighting in recent weeks. UN officials have called on all parties to cease hostilities and to ensure access so that humanitarian workers can reach those who need help.
An estimated 25,000 refugees have arrived in Ethiopia since 3 September, when the influx started, UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.
“With hostilities still ongoing in Sudan’s Blue Nile state, we expect the numbers to continue rising,” he said, adding that new aerial bombings were reported as recently as yesterday.
Refugees told UNHCR staff they had fled fighting around Damazine, the capital of Blue Nile state, and had walked for up to a week to reach safety, Mr. Edwards stated.
The agency said that refugees have mainly been entering Ethiopia via the Kurmuk border point, with some 1,500 crossing reported last Friday alone. In recent weeks people have been moving back and forth across the border, but now more of those coming across are families carrying household belongings and bringing livestock with them.
“Most of the refugees are staying in local communities around Kurmuk,” said Mr. Edwards. “Many are sleeping in the open, presenting increased risk of illness and disease.
“An additional concern is the safety of refugees in villages near Kurmuk, because of the area’s proximity to locations in Sudan where bombing is ongoing,” he added.
UNHCR and the Ethiopian Government are seeking to relocate refugees to the camp at Sherkole camp, some 50 kilometres to the south-east, where basic services and better protection can be provided.
More than 3,000 people have been moved so far and the pace of relocations is expected to increase as more refugee community leaders come forward to request relocation.