Dire conditions face refugees fleeing Ethiopia to Sudan

Pregnant women, separated families and sick elderly people are among thousands of refugees continuing to arrive daily into Sudan from conflict-stricken Ethiopia. Many appear traumatised and all are in dire need of humanitarian support.

“People are sleeping out in the open. There are no tents, just blankets. There is some food, like porridge and water, but there are no toilets, showers or health services. Many families arrived with nothing more than the clothes on their back. They are essentially arriving with nothing, to nothing,” said Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Sudan, Will Carter.

NRC is currently working in Um Raquba camp in Gedaref state, in the east of Sudan, where up to 5,000 people are crossing daily from Ethiopia. According to the UN, over 30,000 refugees have so far fled into Sudan after fighting erupted in the Tigray region earlier this month.

“There are pregnant women in the camp, diabetics with no insulin, people living with HIV/AIDS with no medical care, and children without parents. It’s a deeply traumatic and depressing time for many,” he added.

Carter said some people are arriving injured and many are highly distressed, having witnessed extreme violence back home.

“Some are injured and are being taken care of at the border crossing. Refugees have told us that they are worried for their relatives in Tigray as they are unable to reach them because of the communication shutdown. Others have told us harrowing stories about witnessing people being killed, forcing many to flee,” he said.

NRC is among very few humanitarian agencies working with state authorities to ensure that people receive the help they need and to avert a deeper crisis. In the coming days, NRC will provide cash assistance to newly arrived families to enable them to purchase basic items from local markets. An interagency humanitarian appeal will be launched soon to resource desperately needed life-saving assistance.

“The needs in this current crisis are immense, yet resources even for the wider aid efforts in Sudan are incredibly stretched. Donors have the opportunity now to stand with the government of Sudan and the people of Ethiopia, and urgently release money and help save thousands of lives. The Sudanese government can also support aid agencies by swiftly resolving logistical challenges and avoid unnecessary delays in the delivery of aid,” said Carter.