The United Nations is desperately trying to provide life-saving aid to more than 20,000 refugees from the Benishangul Gumuz region of Ethiopia and is urgently seeking additional resources as it struggles with a funding shortfall.
According to UNHCR, violence has been rife in the region since December. More than 70,000 Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees live there, as do over 500,000 internally displaced Ethiopians.
During a regular press briefing in Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters that the agency is working with Ethiopia’s Refugee and Returnee Service and other partners in order to provide the most urgent assistance to displaced refugees.
UN officials reported fighting erupted on January 18 between unidentified armed groups in Tongo, Ethiopia. The nearby refugee camp that houses 10,300 refugees were looted and burned. The attack follows the looting of another camp in late December, according to the agency.
The UNHCR reports that all humanitarian staff have been displaced from Tongo and Gure-Shembola camps due to inaccessibility.
“After the violence erupted, more than 20,000 refugees made their way over long distances to three different sites closer to Assosa, the regional capital, arriving exhausted and in need of assistance,” said Cheshirkov.
Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, who fled camps and returned to Sudan’s Blue Nile state were also recorded by the UN.
The conflict in the Tigray region is unrelated to the clashes in Benishangul Gumuz.
According to UNHCR, 9 per cent of Ethiopia’s $335 million needs has been met this year.
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