In early November 2020, military confrontations between federal and regional forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders both Sudan and Eritrea, led the Government to declare a State of Emergency. Since then, and despite the announcement of an official end to military operations at the end of November, Ethiopia’s Tigray region has continued to be affected by armed clashes and insecurity.
Since the violence began, more than 50,000 people have fled into Sudan in search of safety as of mid-December. During the height of the influx, more than 1,000 people on average were arriving each day, overwhelming the capacity to provide aid.
UNHCR is working with authorities in Sudan to provide lifesaving assistance to the thousands of Ethiopian women, children and men arriving in search of refuge. UNHCR and the Sudanese Commissioner for Refugees (COR) are screening and registering new arrivals, and temporarily sheltering them in transit centres located near the border entry points. Water and meals are being provided, as well as health screening, including for COVID-19. UNHCR and the authorities have set up a new refugee camp at Um Rakuba, 70 kilometres from the border, with a capacity to host up to 30,000 people, and are identifying and preparing additional sites.
Prior to the crisis, the Tigray region of Ethiopia hosted 95,929 registered Eritrean refugees, approximately 100,000 Ethiopian internally displaced persons (IDPs), and some 500,000 people dependent on food relief assistance. In addition, 1 million people received safety net assistance. There are growing concerns of tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees and Ethiopian civilians being internally displaced within Tigray and further into the country.
Across the Tigray region, the conflict as well as the lack of basic services and shortages of food, water, fuel, and cash for over a month has severely impacted the lives of Eritrean refugees, IDPs and civilians. UNHCR has not had access to the four Eritrean refugee camps in Tigray since the start of the conflict in early November. UNHCR and partner staff who remained in Shire have been able to assist some 5,000 IDPs in the town with water, high energy biscuits, clothes, mattresses, sleeping mats and blankets from pre-existing stocks in the area.
UNHCR, in partnership with the Agency for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), UN agencies and NGO partners has pre-positioned stocks of core relief items and stands ready to provide urgent humanitarian assistance and protection services to the Eritrean refugees in Tigray, along with the growing number of IDPs and vulnerable host communities.