Home | News    Thursday 8 September 2011

Aid groups launch emergency assistance to fleeing Sudanese in Ethiopia

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By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

September 6, 2011 (ADDIS ABABA) – International aid agencies have began providing emergency assistance to fleeing Sudanese in Ethiopia as the refugee population that escaped recent conflict from Sudan’s Blue Nile state swells to around 20,000.

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Internally displaced people flee on a tractor at a rural area after fighting broke out, near the Blue Nile state capital al-Damazin, September 5, 2011 - (Reuters)

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday said it has deployed staff in western Ethiopia to provide emergency relocation assistance to a growing number of arrivals.

Since clashes broke out Thursday between government forces and armed members of the recently outlawed northern sector of the SPLM in Blue Nile state, the number of Sudanese to neighboring Ethiopia is on the rise.

Since SPLM-led South Sudan declared independence in July, Sudan’s military stepped up its attempts to disarm northern members of the group. Fighting has also been ongoing in South Kordofan, which also borders South Sudan since June. The SPLM-N say that its officers are being closed and members arrested across the country.

Khartoum has reneged on a previous deal which recognised the SPLM-N as a legal party.

Fighting began in the Blue Nile state capital Damazine last week. The elected SPLM-N was deposed and a temporary military installed triggering a mass exodus of people across international borders into South Sudan and Ethiopia.

Aid groups said that refugees are stranded on the Ethiopian border with little food, water and other basics. However, a considerable number of them are reluctant for relocation and prefer to stay near the border hoping that the fighting will end soon and they could return home.

The Geneva-based International Organization for Migration said:

“The IOM team, consisting of medical and operational staff, has arrived in the Ethiopian towns Kirmuk and Gizane to organize the immediate relocation of the newly arrived to an established refugee camp in Sherkole, some 50 km inland from the border”.

On Tuesday the IOM began assessing road conditions, identifying local service providers and setting up embarkation sites and medical screening facilities with a view to start the relocation of the refuges away from the border within the next 24 hours.

IOM and the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) have released $250,000 from their joint Rapid Response Transportation Fund (RRTF) to cover some of the immediate transportation costs.

“With reports of on-going fighting and bombing in Blue Nile State, we expect more people to cross into Ethiopia in the coming days,” says Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Director of Operations.

“More funding will be needed to move people away from congested border areas to camps where the refugees will receive the assistance and protection they need.” He added.

UNHCR has dispatched emergency relief items to Assosa and more supplies are on the way from Addis to assist those at Sherkole and in villages along the border. UNICEF is providing water bladders and medical supplies while WFP is sending food urgently to the area.

UNHCR called on the two warring parties to immediately cease fire to avoid further humanitarian crises.

“UNHCR reiterates its call to both the Sudan government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North to end the fighting and allow access for humanitarian staff to address any urgent life-saving needs”.

“We are also calling on both parties to ensure the protection of humanitarian workers and their assets, including warehouses where vital aid has been stored”

Since the Sudanese government in Khartoum and the South Sudan rebel group, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005; the number of Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia has seen an increasing decline as many also return home.

Excluding the latest arrivals, currently the horn of Africa country hosts more than 26,000 Sudanese refugees in two camps.

(ST)

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