The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, has launched an appeal for $147 million to support as many as 100,000 people fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray region into neighbouring Sudan.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday, said more than 43,000 people have fled across the border to escape fighting in Ethiopia in recent weeks, almost half of them children, the UN said in a statement.
The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, on Saturday, announced the capture of Mekelle, the Tigray regional capital, by the Ethiopian Defence Forces from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces.
Violence erupted at the start of November in Tigray involving federal and local forces, following the reported takeover of an army base in Mekelle, which prompted the prime minister to order a military offensive.
Mr. Grandi said in a statement that Sudan’s welcome of the refugees was an example to the international community and called for international support to bolster its effort.
“The Government of Sudan has kept the border open in the best tradition of African and Sudanese hospitality and I want to commend it as an example to the international community. But the government of Sudan needs a lot of help,” he said during a four-day visit to the region.
In its appeal document, UNHCR said its current planning scenario was for an anticipated increase in refugee numbers, with a total of 100,000 by April 2021, but the worst-case scenario was for an influx of 200,000.
UNHCR said on Friday it had begun airlifting aid to the refugees, sending the first of four planeloads of supplies to Khartoum, with a second flight due to bring 100 tonnes from Dubai on Monday, including blankets, solar lamps, mosquito nets, plastic sheets, tents and prefabricated warehouses.
The appeal for $147m aims to fund UNHCR, the UN and humanitarian community to help Sudan manage the crisis over the next six months.
During his trip, Mr. Grandi met Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and other Government officials in Khartoum, and he spoke to refugees at the hot and dusty frontier where they are coming across, many of whom said they wanted to return home as soon as it was safe, according to UNHCR.
Mr. Grandi also said he was worried about the situation facing almost 100,000 refugees from Eritrea who are hosted by Ethiopia in the Tigray region.
“Ethiopia is a very hospitable country for refugees, but now they are caught in this conflict, we don’t have access to them,” he said.
In a separate report, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said lack of funding had forced it to cut rations for refugees in East Africa, and WFP Ethiopia urgently needed $209m to assist 6.2 million beneficiaries from December 2020 to May 2021.
It said the fighting between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation front had displaced more than 100,000 civilians, including those who had fled into eastern Sudan since 4 November.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Sunday that local hospitals and health facilities in the Tigray capital, Mekelle, are running dangerously low on medical supplies to care for the wounded as well as other mounting medical needs and conditions.
Ambulances run by the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) have been transporting the injured and deceased people to Ayder Referral Hospital in Mekelle, it said in a statement.
ICRC staff visited Ayder Referral Hospital on Saturday and found approximately 80 per cent of patients to be suffering from traumatic injuries.
The influx of the wounded forced the hospital to suspend many other medical services so that limited staff and resources could be devoted to emergency medical care, it said.
“The hospital is running dangerously low on sutures, antibiotics, anticoagulants, painkillers, and even gloves,” said Maria Soledad, the head of operations for the ICRC in Ethiopia, who visited Ayder Referral Hospital and is currently in Mekelle. “The influx of injured comes more than three weeks after supply chains were disrupted into Mekelle. We need to ensure that health workers have the supplies and conditions they need to carry out their lifesaving work.”
The hospital is also lacking in body bags for the deceased. Food supplies are also low, affecting particularly those recovering from surgery and requiring specific nutritional needs.
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