UN: Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia’s cut-off camps in dire need of aid

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Tuesday revealed it had found Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia in desperate need of supplies and services after the Tigray conflict forced humanitarian workers to withdraw from the region.

A statement quoting UNHCR Spokesperson Babar Baloch, said that the UN agency led the first humanitarian mission to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps to conduct a needs assessment.

The assessment found that “refugees were cut off from any supplies and services for more than two months. Wells were not functional without fuel for the pumps — leaving refugees to use water from a nearby creek for washing, cooking and drinking, resulting in diarrhoea-like illnesses,” the statement said.

According to the UN refugee agency, the only assistance the refugees received since November 4, the start of the conflict, was a one-time food distribution conducted by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) almost a month ago.

It noted that plans are underway for a second distribution.

No access to camps

The UNHCR also noted that it has not had any access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps further north in Tigray since November.

According to the UNHCR, some 5,000 Eritrean refugees have made their way to the town of Shire and “are living in dire conditions, many sleeping in an open field on the outskirts of the town, with no water and no food”.

Ethiopia has been home to nearly 200,000 Eritrean refugees, most of whom are mainly sheltered in Tigray and Afar regional states as well as in the capital Addis Ababa, according to recent figures from the Ethiopian government.

Weeks of fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray regional state between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian Defence Forces has left hundreds of people dead, thousands displaced and millions in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, media reported.

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