This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is warning that a full-scale humanitarian crisis is unfolding as thousands of refugees flee ongoing fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region each day to seek safety in eastern Sudan – an influx unseen over the last two decades in this part of the country.
Women, men and children have been crossing the border at the rate of 4,000 per day since 10 November, rapidly overwhelming the humanitarian response capacity on the ground.
More than 27,000 have now crossed into Sudan through the Hamdayet border in Kassala State, the Lugdi in Gedaref State and a new location further south at Aderafi border where Ethiopian refugees started crossing over the weekend.
Refugees fleeing the fighting continue to arrive exhausted from the long trek to safety, with few belongings. UNHCR, with its partners, is supporting the Sudanese government in its response, ramping up humanitarian assistance at the borders as the needs continue to grow.
In Hamdayet, clean water is being delivered and latrines are being constructed. Soap is provided but UNHCR remains very concerned about the hygiene conditions as more and more people arrive.
At Village 8, the transit centre near the Lugdi crossing, refugees are able to access clean water in nearby communities and use 1,200 existing temporary shelters.
Humanitarian agencies continue to distribute relief items including blankets and sleeping mats. The World Food Programme is providing food and high protein biscuits. Hot meals are being provided by Muslim Aid.
Sudan’s Ministry of Health with support from the Sudan Red Crescent have set up two clinics and are conducting health and nutrition screenings and medical consultations and referrals.
Since Saturday, UNHCR has so far relocated 2,500 refugees from the border to Um Raquba settlement site as renovation works continue. There is a critical need to identify more sites so that refugees can be relocated away from the border and can access assistance and services.
In Tigray in Ethiopia the lack of electricity, telecommunications and access to fuel and cash continue to severely hamper any humanitarian response. After nearly two weeks of conflict, reports of larger numbers of internally displaced grow daily, while the lack of access to those in need, coupled with the inability to move in goods to the region, remain major impediments to providing assistance.
UNHCR and partners are on standby to provide assistance to the displaced in Tigray, including basic items, when access and security allow.
The conflict is also a major ongoing concern for the Eritrean refugee population of nearly 100,000 in Tigray, who are reliant on assistance from UNHCR and partners. Potential for further displacement of refugees inside the country is increasingly a real possibility.
The humanitarian situation as result of this crisis is growing rapidly. UNHCR reiterates its call for peace and urge all parties to respect the safety and security for all civilians in Tigray.