More than 32,000 South Sudanese have sought refuge in the Gambella region of Ethiopia since the beginning of September, and an average of 1,000 more join them every day. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is mobilizing all available resources to assist them and has constructed emergency shelters for 1,200 households in the last weeks, with an additional 200 emergency shelters being finalized in the two days. Furthermore, DRC provides assistance to persons with disabilities and special needs upon arrival to Tierkidi camp, one of the largest camps in the region.
Conflict and food scarcity in eastern South Sudan, where renewed fighting has forcibly displaced thousands and cut off large parts of the population from their livelihoods, has blocked agricultural production and food deliveries in the country. Earlier in September, the United Nations warned that South Sudan has reached unprecedented levels of hunger.
“The situation across the border is extremely serious with a combination of recent fighting and hunger. We and other agencies are mobilizing as rapidly as possible to provide shelter and assistance to the refugees crossing the border and especially focusing on vulnerable persons with disabilities or special needs,” says James Curtis, DRC’s Country Director in Ethiopia.
The more than 32,000 new arrivals join 286,000 South Sudanese refugees who for the most part have been living in refugee camps in Gambella since civil war broke out in South Sudan in December 2013. 65% of the arrivals are under the age of 18 and one out of twelve new refugees are children who have been separated from their parents or arrive unaccompanied at the reception centre in Pagak, on the border between South Sudan and Ethiopia.
“The current influx adds to an already large population of refugees and we are receiving a high number of unaccompanied minors – which increases the urgency for a rapid response,” says James Curtis.
Here, the United Nations, the Ethiopian refugee agency ARRA and humanitarian NGOs endeavour to accommodate, register and relocate the new arrivals to the existing camps in Gambella as quickly as possible, to avoid congestion and to be able to provide essential services. The agencies present have in coordination reoriented their activities to respond rapidly to urgent needs in protection, shelter, food assistance, health services, and water and sanitation, both in Pagak and in the refugee camps.
“DRC remains closely engaged with actors on the ground to be prepared to scale up the efforts, if the number of new South Sudanese refugees continues to grow unabated in the coming weeks,” says James Curtis.
DRC has been operating in Ethiopia since 2009, supporting various refugee populations and host communities and has also working on mixed migration issues in the country. DRC has a country programme office in Addis Ababa and four operational offices in the Gambella, Tigray, and Somali regions.
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