Attacks leave Sudan refugees stranded in Ethiopian forest

Attacks leave Sudan refugees stranded in Ethiopian forest
People sit by makeshift shelters near Awlala Camp, Amhara region, Ethiopia
People sit by makeshift shelters near Awlala Camp, Amhara region, Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA, June 22 (NNN-AGENCIES) — Refugees from Sudan’s civil war who fled into neighbouring Ethiopia say they have been forced to move on again and take shelter in a forest and on roadsides after repeated attacks by gunmen left their tents pock-marked with bullet holes.

About 8,000 people have left the Kumer and Awlala refugee camps, set up by the United Nations in Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region, since repeated assaults last month, mostly by bandits, camp representatives said.

They had originally fled fighting that broke out between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in April 2023 that has led to extreme hunger in parts of that country and accusations of ethnic cleansing in Darfur.

“We left our country because we were scared of the stray bullets from the army and RSF,” one young man said.

“We sought refuge in Ethiopia to save our lives, and now we are facing the same danger.”

He said he had originally left Sudan’s capital Khartoum, then the camps, and was now sheltering in a forest with fellow refugees in the Amhara region – where militias have been battling Ethiopian federal government troops in a separate conflict.

Images sent via WhatsApp and Telegram showed makeshift dwellings made out of branches and tarp, and scores of people, including many children, sitting outside along a roadside.

The Ethiopian government’s Refugee and Returnee Service said it was engaged with refugees to address safety and service concerns, despite limited resources.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR said in a statement that Ethiopian police had increased patrols, and that it continued to provide services inside the two camps and to encourage what it said were around 1,000 people outside Awlala to return.

Sudan’s war has created the world’s largest displacement crisis, with more than 8.9 million people fleeing their homes. Of the 2.1 million who left the country, more than 122,000 have gone to Ethiopia, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

The aid group Medical Teams International, which has run a clinic near the camps in Ethiopia, said last week one of its staff was killed after armed men fired on a convoy.

Cholera has spread in Kumer, where there was at most one doctor available to see patients, several refugees and an aid worker, who asked not to be named, said.

The UN says just $400,000 in funding for Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia has been delivered, out of an appeal for more than $175 million. — NNN-AGENCIES


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