Concern Over Numbers of Refugees Arriving in the Gambella Regional State From South Sudan

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees estimates that an average of 1,000 refugees are arriving in the Gambella Regional State from South Sudan every week. Since mid-December last year, 69,456 South Sudanese refugees have entered the Gambella region.

Two thirds of the arrivals are children, many unaccompanied, according to a March inter-agency report coordinated by UNHCR. Food shortages in South Sudan mean that many of the refugees are severely malnourished and ill when they reach the transit centers at one of the seven entry points. The largest, Pagak, transfers on average more than 1,000 people a day to two camps across Gambella Region. The report anticipates that 140,000 refugees will enter Ethiopia in coming months.

Temporary health posts and food centers have been set up at entry points to aid the severely malnourished entering Ethiopia. According to Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs those who came in January and February were in a much better condition than the ones that are arriving now. Relief workers and agencies warn of an imminent humanitarian crisis as the camps reach capacity and assistance is increasingly stretched.

The start of the rains in South Sudan, due at the end of April means that the camps both in South Sudan and in Gambela are likely to face more problems, and on the South Sudan side of the border, the rains may lead to greater food shortages and less accessibility.

The UNHCR and the World Food Program this week appealed for $371 million to provide urgently needed support for the South Sudanese refugees arriving in neighboring countries. Over 200,000 people have fled to Sudan, Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya according to UNHCR. It expects the number of South Sudanese refugees across the region to reach 340,000 by the end of the year. With some 700,000 people displaced inside South Sudan and 3.7 million at high risk of food insecurity, the potential for further cross-border movement is high.

Source : Government of Ethiopia

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