An elderly woman cooking in a refugee camp

UNHCR and partners rush to help thousands of Ethiopian refugees in Benishangul Gumuz region

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More than 20,000 refugees have left the fighting in Ethiopia’s Benishangul Gumuz area, which borders Sudan and South Sudan, and the UNHCR and partners are sending life-saving relief to them. On the 18th of January, fighting broke out in Tongo, apparently between unidentified armed groups and federal forces, and the adjoining refugee camp, which housed 10,300 people, was plundered and torched. This came after another camp in the region was looted in late December. The access and support to a total of 22,000 persons in both camps was subsequently cut off.

All humanitarian personnel were forced to flee the area, and entry to the two camps – Tongo and Gure-Shembola – is still difficult. The situation in the Benishangul Gumuz region, which hosts over 70,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees and over 500,000 internally displaced Ethiopians, has been extremely volatile since December last year. Following the outbreak of unrest, almost 20,000 refugees traveled great distances to three locations around Assosa, the regional capital, arriving weary and in need of aid.

UNHCR is collaborating with Ethiopia’s Refugee and Returnees Service (RRS) and other partners to provide displaced refugees with the most basic needs, including as hot meals, clean water, and medical care. Regional officials in Benishangul Gumuz have expressed solidarity with refugees by identifying a new temporary location with a capacity of 20,000 people. The UNHCR is striving to set up basic services like as water, shelter, and latrines, as well as to begin transferring refugees to the location as soon as possible.

70 Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, have also returned to Sudan’s Blue Nile State, according to the UNHCR. UNHCR teams in Sudan are assisting these returnees, in collaboration with Sudanese authorities and partners, and contingencies are being put in place in case more arrive. Bambasi, Tsore, and Sherkole, three more refugee camps in the Benishangul Gumuz region, remain completely operational with all services. In addition to assisting refugees, the Government, UNHCR, and partners have helped those who are internally displaced in the region, reaching over 100,000 people last year – mostly women and children – with shelter, clothing, emergency supplies, and psychosocial support,

With the battle still going on, a cease-fire is required to prevent future dangers to civilian life in the region. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) calls for the protection of civilians, particularly refugees and those forcibly displaced. Regrettably, refugees who had sought and found protection while rebuilding their lives have now lost everything. UNHCR’s Ethiopia operation has only received 9% of the country’s total requirements for the year, totaling USD 335 million, and is in desperate need of funds to meet this and other essential needs.


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