UM RAKOUBA CAMP, SUDAN - Ethiopian refugees are evacuating border camps in Sudan as aid resources are diverted to Um Rakouba, the country’s main camp, where many still lack food and shelter.

Refugees say the camp, which is far from the Ethiopian border, may be safer after the Sudanese army said a cross-border raid on Tuesday killed some of their soldiers and damaged property.

In the past week, hundreds of families have been bused from camps near the Ethiopian border here to the Um Rakouba camp deeper inside Sudan, where most of the roughly 50,000 new Ethiopian refugees are now staying.

A Tigray girl sits atop a hill overlooking the Um Rakouba refugee camp, hosting people who fled the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Dec. 14, 2020.

Fighting has refugees on the move

A week ago, refugees were being told to come here for food and shelter. In recent days, the war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region seems to be closer to the border than before and refugees say moving farther into Sudan has become more urgent.

Many here arrived late Thursday from the Hashaba camp, not far from the border with Ethiopia.

Hadgu Kidane is a farmer who fled Ethiopia over a month ago. He says from Hashaba camp, he could increasingly hear bombing from across the border.

Like many refugees who arrived in the past week, Kidane has no place to sleep and is waiting to register for other necessities. The camp has quickly become crowded and families are making shelters out of found items or their clothes.

When they fled their homes a little over a month ago, many people witnessed beatings, looting and killings on the street. Some small children say they remember running past dead bodies as they fled.

A man lights a fire to make dinner for his family in the Um Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Dec. 14, 2020.

Blackout leaves families out of touch 

Phone and internet service is still blacked out in much of the region, so many of the war’s details remain unknown. People who have been able to talk to their families inside the war zone say they are told it is no safer now than it was when they fled.

Geberaha is a 40-year-old mother and grandmother. She says if she returns to Ethiopia, she is certain she will be killed, so she has no choice but to wait out the war here in Sudan.

A statement posted on the Sudanese army’s Facebook page says soldiers were killed and property was destroyed in the recent cross-border attack but does not include further details.