According to United Nations and Ethiopian refugee agencies, an estimated 100,000 people have fled fighting in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region into a remote drought-stricken territory of Ethiopia.
The UN refugee agency thinks more than 98,000 people have crossed the border since February 6, citing authorities in Doolo, located in the country’s southeastern tip, more than 1,300 kilometres (more than 800 miles) from the capital Addis Abeba.
“We will substantiate numbers,” Tesfahun Gobezay, director general of the Refugees and Returnees Service (RRS), an Ethiopian government agency which has started registering the arrivals, told reporters.
“This is an area that is lacking infrastructure and social development and of course coped with drought that has lasted for four years but they have shown us that we can still be considerate to others,” continued Tesfahun.
According to Mamadou Dian Balde, the UNHCR representative in Ethiopia, 29,000 refugees have been documented so far. If the figures are correct, the refugees could increase the population of the three regions by 40%, with around 236,000 people already suffering from the Horn of Africa’s drought.
Somaliland, a former British protectorate, has claimed independence from Somalia since 1991 but has never been recognised globally, and is often regarded as a beacon of stability in an otherwise chaotic area.
Political tensions have risen in recent months, resulting in deadly clashes between government troops and Somali militias.
According to UNHCR, Ethiopia, which has a population of about 120 million people, is already housing an estimated 880,000 refugees, the majority of whom are from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, and Sudan.
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