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UNHCR support for Ethiopian refugees in Sudan

December 8 - 2020 GENEVA / EL GEDAREF
Ethiopian refugees cross into the states of Kassala and El Gedaref (SUNA)
Ethiopian refugees cross into the states of Kassala and El Gedaref (SUNA)

Last Wednesday, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of the UN Refugee Agency held its annual pledging conference with donors in Geneva. A part of the donor money will go to the protection of Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan. Yesterday, the number of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the war in Tigray to eastern Sudan rose to 49,827.

At the conference, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, who just returned from Sudan, said: “Refugees fleeing conflict, persecution and human rights violations need our support now more than ever. We are encouraged by the commitments our donors made today which are a lifeline for millions needing help, hope and home.”

Donor governments pledged a record of US$932 million to the UNHCR deliver life-saving aid and to protect the rights of nearly 80 million refugees, displaced and stateless people in 2021. A part of the money will go to the protection of Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan.

The meeting was led by Ali Abdelrahman, Permanent Representative of Sudan to the UN Office in Geneva, and Walter Stevens, Head of the Permanent Delegation of the EU Mission to the UN Office in Geneva.

During the meeting, they discussed UNHCR support and the issue of refugee protection during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially with regards to vulnerable groups.

The meeting focused on the need to support refugee-hosting communities and to integrate refugees into national plans for immunisation against COVID-19.

Those who attended the meeting expressed their appreciation to the donor countries as well as to Sudan for its important role in receiving refugees, especially those fleeing the conflict in the Tigray region.

UNHCR and the European Union insisted on the need to support Sudan during this stage as the country faces a number of economic and health challenges, including being in the middle of a second COVID-19 wave.

Many donor countries also believe in the importance of supporting the Sudanese government's efforts to deal with the recent influx of refugees. They highlighted the need to study the economic and social impact of the pandemic on both host-communities and refugees.

Ethiopian refugees in Sudan

Yesterday, the number of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the war in Tigray to eastern Sudan rose to 49,827, Abdelhafeez Khalil, director of the Refugee Housing Department in El Gedaref reported.

He said that the influx of refugees into El Gedaref town reached 879 per day, reaching a total number of 16,196.

He explained that the refugees enter the country through three border crossings: Hamdayet in Wad El Helew locality in Kassala (34,184 refugees so far), and Medina 8 El Hashaba in El Fashaga locality (16,246) and El Usra in El Gureisha locality (496) in El Gedaref. From Hamdayet and El Usra, 11,746 refugees were transported to the Um Rakouba camp in East El Galabat, the most southern locality of El Gedaref.

The refugees in camps in eastern Sudan often lack basic necessities as there is not enough humanitarian aid. There have, for example, been cases of suspected COVID-19, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and tuberculosis, as well as people with health conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. There is also a lack of delivery rooms for the large number of pregnant Ethiopian women in refugee camps in El Gedaref.

International support

Last week, diplomats and Sudanese experts emphasised the importance of the international community during a symposium held at the Diplomatic Club in Khartoum.

They called for the need for “tight coordination” between international organisations, national institutions, and civil society in dealing with the crisis and minimising its effects on Sudan and the region.

Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok has asked the UNHCR for technical and programmatic assistance to deal with the influx of Ethiopian refugees. He and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi agreed to organise an international conference on refugee issues to be hosted by Khartoum at the beginning of next year.


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