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Sudan criticizes UNHCR slow response to support Ethiopian refugees

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Over 25,000 Ethiopians have fled into Sudan, with numbers continuing to grow, including these families photographed on November 13, 2020 (AFP photo)November 16, 2020 (KHARTOUM) - The Governor of Gadaref State Monday criticized the United Nations slow response to the humanitarian crisis in eastern Sudan as a result of the continued influx of Ethiopian refugees.

Speaking in a videoconference briefing to the media hosted by the Sudan News Agency from Gadaref on Monday, Governor Suleiman Musa called to speed up the humanitarian response of UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and aid groups, stressing that his state has no means and Sudan already faces food shortage.

He added that the UNHCR Representative in Sudan Axel Bisschop visited the state last week and vowed to assist the refugees but still they did not see any humanitarian response to the crisis.

"Bisschop pledged to support the refugees in Gadaref State provided we allocate an area for a new refugee camp," he said

"But we do not see any humanitarian response until now. We fulfilled our commitment and gave an area establish a refugee camp in Um Rakoba," he stressed.

The number of refugees in Gadaref reached 15,500 people including 13,000 in Fashaga area near the border.

Children make-up more than half of the refugees in Gadaref as their number has reached 9,000 together with 2,700 women and 1,300 men, he said.

This is not the first time that the UNHRC is criticized. Similar criticism had been voiced against the UN refugee body during the influx of Syrian refugees to Jordan from July 2012 to June 2013.

In 2014, MSF issued a report slamming the UNHCR’s role as coordinator, implementor and donor saying this triple role led to considerable "conflicts of interest" and this, in turn, made it difficult for the agency itself "to admit to bigger problems or to ask for technical assistance from other UN agencies, for fear of losing out on funding or credibility."

In a situation report on Sunday 15 November, the UN Population Fund said that a joint assessment conducted by UNHCR, OCHA, COOPI, and Plan International in the Hamdayet Transition Center on November 10 – 11, 2020 identified immediate humanitarian needs regarding Shelter, Non Food Items, Water-Sanitation-Hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition.

Amongst the newly arrived, there were 139 pregnant women who took part in the nutrition assessment.

On Monday, the UNHCR said that over 25,300 refugees fleeing the Tigray region have reached Kassala and Gadaref states of Sudan.

More than 5,000 refugees arrived in Sudan’s border areas on Sunday, the highest single-day number of arrivals since the start of the conflict in Tigray earlier this month, the UNHCR said.

Local officials say that the real number of refugees is much bigger than the figures announced by the Sudanese authorities or the UNHCR pointing that hundreds of refugees are unregistered.

Initial projections estimate that the number of Ethiopian refugees would reach 200,000 people if the fighting continues in the Tigray Region.

(ST)

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