May 20, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) has relocated over 1,480 Sudanese refugees from the border to Sherkole camp in Ethiopia pushing the capacity of the camp beyond the initial limit of 9,000 people.
In a statement the UNHCR in Ethiopia said the refugees who had originally been displaced by the conflict in Sudan’s eastern Blue Nile state were relocated during March and April.
The Sudanese refugees were being sheltered among host communities along the Ethiopia-Sudan border since their arrival in 2011 hoping to return when stability is restored.
But with the security situation in Blue Nile state still uncertain the UN refugee agency said it is planning to relocate more Sudanese refugee from the borders to camps further inside Ethiopia.
Ethiopia’s Agency for Refugees and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) - which is an implementing partner of the UNHCR - said that some 2,000 more Sudanese are ready to be relocated soon.
Currently Ethiopia hosts nearly 90,000 Sudanese refugees who make up 22.5% of the total over 397,000 refugees currently Ethiopia shelters.
The UNHCR believes that continuing conflict and access to humanitarian aid in Blue Nile and Kordofan states would possibly drive more Sudanese to seek refuge in Ethiopia.
With the Sudanese government and SPLM-N as yet unable to reach a peace accord, the UNHCR said Assosa town in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region will remain in emergency preparedness mode to receive new refugees.
The AU-mediated peace talks between the Sudanese government and the SPLM-N held last month in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, ended with no breakthrough.
The two sides failed to reach agreement on the central issues of the conflict as well as providing humanitarian aid to conflict-affected regions.
Further more the UNHCR and its partners are planning to expand Kutaworke transit centre within Sherkole camp with the aim of using it as a temporary shelter in the event of a large scale of influx.
“In the meantime, UNHCR is following up with ARRA and the regional authorities on the approval of the site for a 4th camp” it said.
The UNHCR meanwhile said Sudanese refugees continue to arrive in Ethiopia from camps in Upper Nile where the outbreak of Hepatitis-E is confirmed.
To tackle a potential spread of the disease to the camps in Ethiopia a multi-agency task force has been established to develop and implement a Hepatitis-E preparedness plan.
According to UNHCR officials there is a legitimate possibility that the disease could be prevalent within Blue Nile state.
“UNHCR and ARRA have been meeting with the Regional Health Bureau, WHO and UNICEF to strengthen coordination between the host community and Refugee operations regarding epidemic preparedness and response”, the UN body’s statement said.