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News: More than 20,000 refugees flee clashes in Benishangul Gumuz region : UNHCR

“Refugees who had sought and enjoyed safety and were rebuilding their lives have now lost everything all over again.”

Addis Abeba – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that more than 20,000 refugees fled clashes in the Benishangul Gumuz region following clashes between unidentified armed groups and federal forces. 

“After the violence erupted, over 20,000 refugees made their way over long distances to three different sites closer to Assosa, the regional capital, arriving exhausted and in need of assistance,” the report read. 

A nearby camp hosting 10,300 refugees was burnt and looted following the fighting in the town of Togo on January 18, the report said, recalling the previous looting of another camp in the area in late December. A total of 22,000 people in both camps were then cut off from access and assistance following the evacuation of all humanitarian staff as access to the area including the two camps – Tongo and Gure-Shembola – remains impossible, the report read. 

The Benishangul Gumuz region hosts more than 70,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees and over 500,000 internally displaced Ethiopians, the UN refugee agency said describing the situation since December last year, as “very tense”. 

The UNHCR who is working with the Ethiopian Government’s Refugee and Returnees Service (RRS) and partners to provide the most urgent assistance to displaced refugees commended Benishangul Gumuz regional authorities for showing solidarity with refugees and identifying a new temporary site with the capacity to accommodate 20,000 people. 

The report noted that three other refugee camps in the Benishangul Gumuz region – Bambasi, Sherkole and Tsore ­– remain fully accessible and all services there are functioning. 

The UNHCR urged that a cessation of conflict is essential to avoid further threats to civilian lives in the region. The agency also underlined that it is in urgent need of resources to respond to this and other emergency needs. AS

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