In early November 2020, military confrontations between federal and regional forces in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which borders both Sudan and Eritrea, led the Government to declare it in a State of Emergency. Since then, Ethiopia’s Tigray region has reportedly continued to be affected by incidents of armed conflict. Since early November, Eastern Sudan received large numbers of refugees through at least three border points, and there are currently no clear signs that this refugee flow is coming to an end.
The population in the Tigray region of Ethiopia includes approximately 600,000 people dependent on food relief assistance (more than 400,000 food insecure, 100,000 IDPs and 95,929 Eritrean refugees). In addition, 1 million people receive safety net assistance.
Refugee Mass Influx to Sudan
The refugee influx to East Sudan started on 9 November with 146 individuals arriving from Humera (Ethiopia) through two border entry points, Lugdi and Hamdayet. Since then, the movement dramatically increased with a daily average of over 2,700 individuals crossing into Kassala and Gedaref. The majority of the arrivals enter through Hamdayat (Kassala State) and in proximity to “Village 8” in Gedaref State, including for example Lugdi border point. These entry points are located in extremely remote locations, only accessible via sand tracks and other non-paved roads. In addition, since 15 November, some Ethiopians have come across the border to Sudan further South in the country’s Wad Ali Ma hi region of Blue Nile State. As of 22 November 2020, and within just two weeks, Sudan has received over 40,000 new Ethiopian refugees.
As of November 2020, Sudan hosts over 1 million refugees from South Sudan, Eritrea, Central African Republic, Ethiopia and other countries, including over 133,000 refugees, mainly Eritrean and Ethiopian, living in nine camps and urban areas in East Sudan.
The country faces multiple challenges, including over 200% annual inflation, currency depreciation and fuel shortages, further compounded by lockdown restrictions due to COVID-19 earlier in 2020. According to the latest International Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report food insecurity levels are the highest ever recorded in Sudan. The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) estimates that over 12.7 million people are in need of assistance, including one million refugees, an increase of a third compared to 2020.
UNHCR has an existing sub-office in Kassala, and a field office in Girba, which is located in close proximity to current border entry points. UNHCR/COR manage a small transit centre at Hamdayet where wet feeding, screening and onward transportation to a designated camp are provided. Protection and assistance services target the protracted and newly arriving Eritrean refugees located in several camps It also seeks to address the onward movements of refugees. Prior to the start of the new refugee influx, 6 UN agencies, 8 INGOs and 3 NNGOs have had ongoing refugee related programming in Eastern Sudan aimed at providing humanitarian assistance services, addressing mixed movements, and responding to protection needs of children (particularly UASC) and persons with special needs. In summary, while there is operational capacities on the ground, this needs to be scaled to respond to a fast-evolving refugee emergency situation. The presence of additional response actors is also required to bolster the overall implementation capacity.