Set by the border between Sudan and Ethiopia, is a small regional state in northwestern Ethiopia called Benishangul Gumuz. This region is home to over 700,000 people of which 70,000 are Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees and over 500,000 people are internally displaced Ethiopians.
Conflict recently broke out in the town of Tongo reportedly between unidentified armed groups and federal forces – a likely spill off from previous ethnic and politically related conflicts from 2019. A nearby camp hosting 10,300 refugees was looted and burned, followed by the looting of another camp in the area in late December 2021.
The UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) is currently asking for aid for a total of 22,000 people in both camps that were cut off from access and assistance.
“After the violence erupted, more than 20,000 refugees made their way over long distances to three different sites closer to Assosa, the regional capital, arriving exhausted and in need of assistance,” agency spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told journalists at a press briefing in Geneva.
He added that since all humanitarian staff had to be evacuated from the affected camps as they remain inaccessible, temporary camps would need to be installed so refugees can access basic services including shelter, water points, and latrines.
Cheshirkov told journalists that regional authorities in Benishangul Gumuz have already shown support to refugees and identified a new temporary site with the capacity to accommodate 20,000 people.
The UNHCR’s operation in Ethiopia requires $335 million to cover countrywide aid requirements in the volatile country. Currently, only 9 percent of the amount has been received by the organization.