UNHCR, 30 Others Seek $156m to Support Refugees Fleeing Ethiopia’s Tigray

Ethiopians fleeing intense fighting in their homeland of Tigray, gather in the bordering Sudanese village 8, east of the town of Gadaref, on November 13, 2020. – Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, ordered military operations in Tigray last week, shocking the international community which fears the start of a long and bloody civil war. (Photo by Ebrahim HAMID / AFP)

The United Nation Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and some 30 humanitarian allies on Tuesday launched an urgent appeal for $156m to meet the critical humanitarian needs of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the conflict in Tigray through the first half of 2021.

UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, while briefing the media on Tuesday, said that the appeal will also strengthen preparedness to receive refugees in other countries in the region, in case of further movements.

The Ethiopian military launched an offensive against the Tigray regional administration on 4 November after forces under the command of the Tigrayan administration launched an offensive against the Ethiopian National Defence Force (NDF).

According to the UNHCR, over the past six weeks, more than 52,000 refugees have fled the Tigray region into eastern Sudan.

“Despite the number of new arrivals dropping more recently to some 500 a day, aid agencies are dealing with a full-scale humanitarian emergency in a very remote area that has not seen such a large refugee influx in decades,” it said.

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According to Mahecic, the Regional Refugee Preparedness and Response Plan for the Ethiopia Situation (Tigray) covers the period from November 2020 through to June 2021, and will reach up to 115,000 refugees and 22,000 people from host communities.

He added that it aims to support the governments of Sudan, Djibouti and Eritrea in maintaining and facilitating access to asylum and providing life-saving assistance to those who have been forced to flee.

“Funding will allow the implementation of critical activities, including registration and documentation, ensuring the civilian character of asylum, decongestion of sites in border areas and transferring refugees to new settlements,” Mahecic said.

Other priorities include providing food, health and education services, and support to groups with specific needs, such as women and girls at risk, unaccompanied minors, the disabled and the elderly.

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The appeal also covers shelter and basic household items for refugees, and support for livelihood activities for refugees and the host community.

UNHCR said in eastern Sudan, from 14 November to date, more than 20,000 refugees have been relocated from the border areas to Um Rakuba camp, located some 75 kilometres from Gedaref town.

“As this site approaches capacity, UNHCR and partners will next week begin preparatory works on a new site located further inland, 136 kilometres away from Gedaref town,” Mahecic said.

He said so far only 30 per cent ($46m) of the required funds have been received by UNHCR and partners for the ongoing response.

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“Responding agencies are grateful for contributions from both government and private sector supporters, that together with unearmarked contributions have allowed for a rapid response to initial needs. Partners are calling for urgent new contributions in order to meet the immense humanitarian needs in eastern Sudan and to ensure full preparedness throughout the region,” Mahecic said.

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