The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), together with 30 humanitarian partners, on Tuesday appealed for $156m to meet “the critical humanitarian needs” of Ethiopian refugees fleeing the Tigray conflict through the first half of 2021.
The urgent financial appeal is also expected to strengthen the preparedness to receive refugees in other countries in the region in case of further refugee movements, said a statement from the UN refugee agency, quoting its spokesperson Andrej Mahecic at a Tuesday press briefing in Geneva.
Weeks of fights in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian Defense Forces have reportedly left hundreds of people dead, thousands displaced, and millions in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
More than 52,000 refugees have fled Tigray into eastern Sudan over the past six weeks, according to the UN refugee agency.
Though new arrivals dropped more recently to some 500 a day, aid agencies were dealing with “a full-scale humanitarian emergency” in a very remote area that has not seen such a large refugee influx in decades, said the statement.
The regional refugee preparedness and response plan covered the period from November 2020, when the situation in Tigray escalated after months of growing political tensions, through to June 2021, and aimed to reach up to 115,000 refugees and 22,000 people from host communities.
It further includes support for 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,” the statement quoted Mahecic as saying.
Other priorities include providing food, health and education services, and support for groups with specific needs, such as women and girls at risk, unaccompanied minors, the disabled and the elderly, it added.
The appeal also covers shelter and basic household items for refugees, and support for livelihood activities for refugees and the host community.
More than 20,000 refugees have been relocated from the border areas to the Um Rakuba camp in eastern Sudan from Nov. 14 to date, the statement said, adding that as the camp approaches capacity, the UN refugee agency and its partners will begin preparatory work next week on a new site located further inland.
Noting that many refugees remain in overcrowded conditions without proper facilities and that there continues to be a shortage of medicines and other supplies, the agency said that “We have seen a huge demand for family tracing and reunification, education and child friendly spaces, and nutritional programs.”
So far only 30 percent of the required funds, or $46m, have been received by the agency and its partners for the ongoing response, the statement said.