This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
As the numbers of people fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray region for eastern Sudan now exceed 33,000, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is working flat out to get enough vitally needed assistance to women, children and men in great need.
Staff at Hamdayet border crossing in Kassala State, and the Lugdi crossing in Gedaref State, continue to register thousands of new arrivals each day.
Refugees have told us they were going about their daily lives when fighting erupted suddenly. We have met teachers, nurses, office workers, farmers and students who were completely caught by surprise. Many fled with nothing except what they had with them and then had to walk for hours and cross a river to seek safety in Sudan.
Refugees are arriving in remote areas that have very little infrastructure. It takes at least six hours to reach Hamdayat from Kassala and to reach Village 8 – another location temporarily hosting refugees. Staff at the border either have to take a ferry with a maximum capacity of four vehicles or take a three-hour detour by road.
The overall needs are huge, but there has been some progress in meeting them as more assistance reaches the border. Hot meals are still being provided, water is being delivered. UNHCR has deployed staff to identify the most vulnerable people with particular needs. More medical supplies are reaching the health clinics including ready to use therapeutic and supplementary food.
Over 5,000 refugees have been transferred from the borders to Um Raquba settlement – 70 kilometres inland.
UNHCR needs immediate support from donors to be able to continue assisting the increasing number of refugees.
Within Ethiopia itself, the number of internally displaced people is growing by the day after nearly two weeks of conflict. The lack of access to those in need, coupled with the inability to move relief supplies into the region, remain major impediments. We are increasingly concerned about the safety and security of all civilians in Tigray, including the 100,000 Eritrean refugees located in four camps there. UNHCR has not heard from its staff since Monday. We are very worried.
Eritrean refugees in Tigray were completely reliant on assistance, including food and water, before the conflict erupted, and there are major concerns that ongoing hostilities will drastically affect services in the camps. Rations were provided until the end of November, so it is increasingly critical for humanitarian workers to have access and for additional food to be distributed before refugees run out.
UNHCR joins other UN agencies in calling for all parties to the conflict to protect displaced civilians and respect the safety of humanitarian staff, a temporary ceasefire with immediate effect to allow humanitarian corridors to be established, and urges unimpeded and immediate humanitarian access to reach people in need in areas under the respective control of the warring parties.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In Khartoum, Sophia Jessen, firstname.lastname@example.org, +249 900 921 267
- In Nairobi, Dana Hughes, email@example.com, +254 733 440 536
- In Geneva, Babar Baloch, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 513 9549
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, email@example.com, +1 347 443 764
- In UK, Juliette Stevenson, firstname.lastname@example.org, +447958958492
Originally published by UNHCR on 20 November 2020.