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UN flies aid into Sudan for Ethiopian refugees

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A child stands in front of a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) tent as Ethiopian refugees who fled fighting in Tigray province camp at the Um Raquba camp in Sudan’s eastern Gedaref province, on November 19, 2020. – Sudan — one of the world’s poorest countries, now faced with the massive influx — has reopened the camp, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the border. It once housed refugees who fled Ethiopia’s 1983-85 famine that killed over a million people. (Photo by ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP)

The United Nations said 32 tons of emergency aid were flown into Khartoum on Friday to help the growing number of refugees fleeing into Sudan from Ethiopia.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said a second airlift from Dubai was due to arrive on Monday, with more than 43,300 registered refugees now having crossed the border to escape the military offensive.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered troops into Tigray on November 4 following alleged attacks by Tigray People’s Liberation Front forces on federal military camps in the northern region.

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UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi visited the Sudanese capital Khartoum to review operations and went to the border river to meet refugees crossing on small boats from Ethiopia.

“I want to express my solidarity and my thanks to Sudan for opening the borders to the refugees,” he said.

Grandi visited registration, medical and food distribution centres at the border.

In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters: “Aid is being mobilised to help refugees, almost half of whom are children.

“Humanitarian agencies continue to provide shelter and other facilities to help refugees but more resources are required and Sudan needs international support urgently.”

He said the UNHCR had helped to relocate nearly 10,000 refugees to Um Raquba, some 70 kilometres (40 miles) further inside Sudanese territory.

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Baloch said some refugees had been reluctant to leave the border area as they wait for relatives to arrive, so family tracing services have been set up and have already reunited many separated families.

Concerns for Eritrean refugees
Nearly 700 registered refugees crossed the border on Thursday, he said.

Aid agencies are preparing for up to 200,000 refugees in total.

Friday’s aid flight from the UNHCR’s stockpile in Dubai carried cargo including 5,000 blankets, 4,500 solar lamps, 2,900 mosquito nets, 200 plastic sheets and 200 plastic rolls.

UNHCR said a second airlift would transport 1,275 family tents and 10 prefabricated warehouses, to meet the immediate shelter needs of more than 16,000 people.

Two further airlifts are planned.

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Abiy on Thursday ordered Ethiopia’s army to launch a “final” offensive against Tigray’s dissident leaders in their regional capital Mekele, saying the deadline for their surrender had expired.

The UNHCR said concerns were growing for the safety of civilians inside Tigray, especially in Mekele — and for Eritrean refugees in four camps within the region.

Humanitarian access to the camps has been lost since the start of the unrest and it is thought that the supplies that were delivered beforehand will likely run out after this weekend.

“UNHCR remains concerned as the humanitarian situation continues to worsen in Tigray, including for those displaced and for some 96,000 Eritrean refugees who will run out of food as soon as Monday if supplies cannot reach them,” said Baloch.

“We join other humanitarian agencies to reiterate our call for the protection of civilians and immediate humanitarian access in order to resume the delivery of life-sustaining assistance.”

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EthiopiaSudanUNHCR
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