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News: Ethiopian refugees trapped in Sudan in peril as aid workers flee continued fighting

Um Rakuba refugee camp which was reopened in November 2020 to accommodate Ethiopians fleeing conflict in the Tigray region (Photo: WFP)

By Mihret G Kristos @MercyG_kirstos

Addis Ababa – Ethiopian refugees who fled the brutal in Tigray in early November 2020 and are sheltered in two refugee camps in Tunaydbah and Um Rakuba in Eastern Sudan, told Addis Standard that they are “in danger” following the outbreak militarized violence in Sudan on 15 April and aid workers’ evacuations.

According to the UNHCR, since November 2020, Sudan has welcomed and assisted some 58,000 Ethiopian refugees and asylum seekers but the refugees there put the number of people in the two camps as high as 80,000.

“We are worried about our safety, food, and other basic humanitarian aid because most of the aid workers are leaving the refugee camps,” Henok Askale, 28, who fled Humera, western Tigray in 2020 and has since been living in Tunaydbah camp, told Addis Standard

He added that thousands of Sudanese IDPs who are displaced by the ongoing fighting are also fleeing to refugee camps creating overcrowding, adding that the monthly food aid they used to receive has already been interrupted.

Another Ethiopian refugee living in Um Rakuba camp, Haftom Teklay, 30 also told Addis Standard that the number of people from the towns who are seeking shelters in the refugee camps has been increasing from time to time.

“NGOs are leaving, including their staff, health centers are closed except for a few. No one is caring about the refugees” Haftom said, adding that “we had hoped to go home, but now we are in big trouble due to the situation here in Sudan”.

The Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum said on Thursday that it has relocated its staff including the ambassador to its consulate office in Gadaref and has been assisting Ethiopian nationals from there. The embassy didn’t say whether the assistance includes those in the refugee camps.

According to the UNHCR Sudan currently hosts 1.1 million refugees from neighboring countries including Ethiopia and some of the refugees have been forced to prematurely return home to deep uncertainty.

Aid organizations are warning that the escalated fighting in Sudan is rapidly worsening an already dire humanitarian situation particularly for children, whereas according to the World Health Organization, healthcare has been severely affected by the violence, with one-third of Sudan’s health-care facilities no longer functioning, depriving children and their families of access to essential healthcare. AS

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