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Living conditions in eastern Sudan refugee camps 'unacceptable'

November 28 - 2020 EL GEDAREF / KASSALA
Ethiopian refugees cross the Sudan-Ethiopian border on November 12 (SUNA)
Ethiopian refugees cross the Sudan-Ethiopian border on November 12 (SUNA)

The undersecretary of the Ministry of Labour and Social Development has described the humanitarian situation in Um Rakouba camp in eastern Sudan’s El Gedaref as extremely bad and unacceptable and needs urgent intervention from the international community and organisations.

The weak response of international organisations has exacerbated the humanitarian situation and put pressure on the government, which has done everything possible so far, Undersecretary Mohamed El Shabek told reporters during his visit to Um Rakouba camp in East El Galabat locality near the Ethiopian border yesterday.

El Shabek noted that the registration process is weak and services do not meet the needs of the refugees, after talks with organisations working in the camp. He also held meetings with the state government.

Secretary General of the National Population Council, Wisal Hussein, said there are 59 pregnant women, 181 breastfeeding women, and 1,014 children in Um Rakouba camp.

There are not enough delivery rooms for the large number of pregnant women in refugee camps in El Gedaref, according to a statement by Amira El Gaddal, Director of the El Gedaref Ministry of Health and Social Development earlier this week.

Osman Sheiba, Secretary General of the National Council for Child Welfare, confirmed the influx of large numbers of unaccompanied children into refugee camps in Sudan, "which is a concern for the authorities that are making intensive efforts to provide legal and security protection for them."

UNHCR response

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, arrived in Khartoum on Friday and travelled to Kassala and El Gedaref to get acquainted with the situation on the ground.

On his official Twitter account on Friday, he expressed his appreciation to the government and people of Sudan. “Sudan once again has upheld its traditional hospitality to people in need — and urgently requires international assistance to support its efforts”.

In Geneva, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokesperson Babar Baloch reported yesterday that Grandi will review UNHCR operations in support of the government-led response to the latest influx. He is also scheduled to meet with refugees.

According to the UNHCR, since the start of fighting in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in early November, more than 43,000 refugees have crossed into Sudan seeking protection and shelter.

The official spokesperson said that the aid that is being mobilised is targeting the arrivals, half of which are children, as humanitarian agencies continue to provide shelter and other service facilities to help the refugees. More resources are needed and Sudan itself needs urgent international support in this regard. The UNHCR said it has helped relocate nearly 10,000 refugees to the Um Rakouba site, where work is ongoing to set up shelters and improve services.

UN aid

On Friday morning, an aircraft carrying 32 tons of emergency aid from the United Nations' global stockpile in Dubai landed at Khartoum Airport. Another airlift is scheduled to depart from Dubai on Monday, carrying 100 tons of additional relief items. The High Commissioner said four airlifts are planned.

The cargo aircraft that landed on Friday included 5,000 blankets, 4,500 solar lamps, 2,900 mosquito nets, 200 plastic sheets and 200 plastic sheets. The second airlift will transport 1,275 family tents and 10 ready-made warehouses. This assistance will meet the immediate shelter needs of more than 16,000 people.

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