The U.N. refugee agency is appealing to Ethiopian federal authorities for access to camps housing thousands of Eritrean refugees who have been without humanitarian aid since the start of the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region early last month.
Food was last distributed to some 96,000 Eritrean refugees sheltering in four camps before the Ethiopian government began its military assault on Tigray on November 4.
The U.N. refugee agency says by now the camps have run out of food supplies, making hunger and malnutrition a real danger. It also expresses concern about the safety and security of the refugees, many of whom are likely to be in the line of fire.
UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch says it is not possible to verify what is happening because all communications in Tigray have been cut off; but, he says there are reports that some refugees may have fled the camps and are now internally displaced inside the northern Ethiopian region.
“And other refugees who are in the camps, they may start moving away as well," Baloch said. "But in terms of attacks, abductions, forced recruitments — these are all worrying reports that have reached us. So, the time we do not get access it is very hard to verify.”
Baloch said it is critical that humanitarians be allowed to reach and help these people in desperate need.
In the meantime, the UNHCR reports Ethiopians continue to flee to Sudan in search of refuge. It says nearly 46,000 now have arrived. Baloch, however, notes the numbers arriving on a daily basis now have decreased from thousands to hundreds.
“Those refugees who are arriving now, they do mention seeing more checkpoints on the roads which connect Ethiopia to Sudan," Baloch said. "They mention the difficulty of moving around, so they have to take other ways to reach Sudan.”
The UNHCR said people in search of safety and assistance should not be prevented from doing so either within their own country or across international borders. The agency is appealing for $147 million to provide humanitarian aid for up to 100,000 refugees for the next six months.