UN braces for Ethiopian refugee fleeing the war

The United Nations refugee agency says about 32,000 people have fled Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region into neighboring Sudan.
UN braces for Ethiopian refugee fleeing the war

An Ethiopian woman who fled the war in the Tigray region of Ethiopia with her child sit by their belongings at the Fashaga refugee camp on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in Sudan. 

The United Nations refugee agency says about 32,000 people have fled Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region into neighboring Sudan, and it is preparing for up to 200,000 in the next six months if necessary.

Axel Bisschop, the agency’s representative in Sudan, told reporters on Friday that “nobody at this stage can say exactly how many will come,” as deadly fighting continues between the Ethiopian government and Tigray regional government forces.

Another crisis is growing inside the sealed-off Tigray region as food and other supplies run desperately low.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the opening of humanitarian corridors “and the truces that might be necessary for humanitarian aid to be delivered.”

“This is a matter of enormous concern to us.”

The Ethiopian refugees are arriving in a very remote area of Sudan, and humanitarians must create a crisis response virtually from zero even as up to 5,000 refugees continue to arrive every day, Guterres added.

“What definitely is clear is that fighting is ongoing and it is sporadic, you never know where it’s going to happen,” said Hameed Nuru, the Sudan country representative for the World Food Program.

“So it is this anticipation and not-knowing which is causing a lot more fear and causing people now to cross.”

He noted reports that some fighters may have put down their arms and joined the flow of people crossing, which could add to tensions.

“This could unravel Ethiopia and also Sudan,” the UNICEF country representative in Sudan, Abdullah Fadil, said of the crisis. “Soon we will be overwhelmed ... if this rate continues.”

Children under 18 make up about 45 percent of the refugees. People left Ethiopia in a great hurry, and most arrived in Sudan with nothing.

Ethiopia’s government has been fighting the Tigray regional forces since November 4.

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