Sudanese killed and raped in Ethiopian refugee camps 

Kumer, Matama, and Ulala camps highlighted on UNHCR Ethiopia operational overview published on January 15 (Map: UNHCR)

Two Sudanese people were killed and six raped in Kumer refugee camp in Ethiopia recently, while others were robbed and kidnapped. Hundreds of refugees have reportedly been struggling to get food, water, and shelter until they are transferred to permanent camps. 

A refugee from Kumer camp, who declined to be named for security reasons, told Dabanga that various shooting incidents have occurred in the camp recently, killing two refugees. Two girls were raped last week and four others the week before. 

Several refugees have been kidnapped and an ambulance belonging to the camp has also been stolen, she said.  

“We cannot go more than four kilometres away from the camp due to the dire security situation,” she explained. “There have been repeated armed attacks on the camp and things were stolen. There is poor security and no external fence.” She said the authorities have not been able to address the security issue. 

Aid services 

Following the theft of the ambulance, there is no way to treat critical cases in the camp, especially pregnant women, the refugee told Dabanga. There is a volunteer midwife in the camp, but she does not have basic first aid supplies such as gauze, needles, or thread. 

The health unit in the camp only works part-time and is only able to access painkillers and antibiotics, she said, adding that “health interventions have slowed the outbreak of cholera, however, the camp environment is very poor.”

The refugee said that they had not received food aid for six months. The World Food Programme began distributing food three months ago, consisting of half a litre of oil, salt, and 10 kilos of unground wheat. “Unfortunately, the quantities are insufficient and unfit for direct use. We need to grind wheat in mills in neighbouring areas, which costs money,” she said. 

The lack of drinking water in Kumer camp has also exacerbated peoples’ suffering, forcing people to dig for water which is quickly depleting. 

Refugees in Ethiopia 

Kumer camp is 70 kilometres from El Gedaref border in Amhara. It was established on May 30 and hosts about 8,000 refugees, including about 4,000 Sudanese people.

There are 27,000 Sudanese refugees at the Refugee Reception and Transit Centre in Matama in Amhara, which is on the border of El Gedaref. Ethiopia’s Amhara region is witnessing security unrest and armed confrontations between the central government and local militias in the region. Most Ethiopians in the area carry weapons, leading to increased abuses, according to sources of Dabanga.

The Ethiopian authorities also host Sudanese refugees in Ulala border camp in Amhara, east of Kumer camp, where protests were held on August 16 over the lack of food and medicine provided.

An estimated 20,000 Sudanese people live at Assosa refugee camp in Benishangul-Gumuz on the border of Blue Nile region.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 100,000 people have crossed into Ethiopia from Sudan, including about 47,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, since April. These come in addition to some 50,000 Sudanese refugees already in the country. The Sudanese community in Ethiopia estimates that about 60,000 people have entered Ethiopia after the outbreak of the war in Sudan last year. 

Ethiopia is one of the largest refugee-hosting countries in Africa, with nearly 1 million refugees in addition to 3.5 million displaced persons. Sudanese crossing into Ethiopia are reportedly forced to pay US$80 in visa fees, after which the Ethiopian authorities oblige them to pay US$80 a month to renew their residency.