Thousands flee Tigray region to Sudan
Arriving weak and exhausted but hopeful and eager to return
The concentration of arrivals from Ethiopia has been happening mainly in Hamdyet Reception Center in Sudan’s Gedarif State, where an emergency response Centre was established with UNCEF support, to register and provide assistance to thousands of women, children and men crossing into the country.
Thousands of refugees who have fled the ongoing fighting in Tigray region in Ethiopia, to seek safety in Kassala and Gedarif states, eastern Sudan face an uncertain future. In the first few days of the new year 2021, over a thousand people crossed into neighbouring Sudan to seek refuge bringing the total to 60,000 refugees including 18,600 children, since early November 2020 when they first arrived.
Fighting between regional and government forces in Tigray, Ethiopia that began in November 2020, has displaced thousands of people within the northern province who have since sought shelter in Sudan. Initially up to 4,000 to 5,000 people were crossing the border daily, rapidly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground.
The refugees hosted in camps in eastern Sudan are in dire need of basic needs like food, shelter, adequate sanitation and clean and safe water. Humanitarian agencies on the ground including UNICEF are working tirelessly to provide the much-needed support. Partners are also prioritizing COVID-19 preventive measures to protect the refugees despite the overwhelming numbers.
Many of the refugees that have crossed to Sudan have been resettled to the Um Rakuba camp about 43 miles away from the border, while several others remain camped around a refugee transit point in Hamdayet, hoping to return home or reunite with their families once the situation normalizes. To them, home is best.
UNICEF is responding with lifesaving humanitarian assistance through water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as health — including routine vaccinations — and nutrition services for the refugees. However, much more supported is needed to address the immediate needs of those affected especially children that are often worst affected in crises such as this. There is need to scale up the support to ensure cases of gender-based violence and violence against children and exploitation are prevented.
UNICEF together with other humanitarian agencies and partners continue to call for the protection of citizens, respect for International Humanitarian Law, and assessment of their immediate and long-term needs while ensuring that the areas affected by the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, receive the necessary support.
Recent arrivals coming from areas deeper inside Tigray are arriving weak and exhausted, some reporting they spent days and even weeks on the run inside Ethiopia as they made their way to the border. Many tell stories of horrific killings and bombings and children are visibly traumatized. UNICEF is providing psychosocial support and other services like clean and safe water and screening for malnutrition for children under five.