Thursday, April 3, 2014

South Sudan Refugess Urgent support needed to save lives in Gambella Ethiopia

More than 17.000 refugees have arrived Gamebell in Ethiopia. Photo: NRC
Urgent support needed to save lives
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Emebet Abdissa (03.04.2014)
Around 75.000 people have crossed into Ethiopia from South Sudan, since the fighting in the young nation erupted in December 2013. The humanitarian situation for the refugees is alarming.
NRC has been on the ground responding to the needs of the refugees in Gambella in Ethiopia. More than 17.000 refugees have arrived Gamebell, and NRC is working in several camps where delivery of timely humanitarian assistance is urgently required.

The Authority for Refugees and Returnees Affair (ARRA) together with UNHCR and other NGOs  started receiving refugees into Tierkidi/Kule Camp located about 52 km from Pagak entry point since 3rd March 2014. In total 252 refugees, all mothers with malnourished children, have been the first group to be relocated and provided with emergency kits (temporary shelter, food rations cooking utensils and sleeping mats).

Shelter construction. Photo: NRC/ Melchizedek Malile

1,500 refugees have received shelter assistance through the emergency tent installation being conducted by NRC and UNHCR. Awareness rising on hygiene promotion has been launched in the camp targeting the new arriving families and the partners are also constructing trench latrines and hangars. Most refugees relocated to Kule camp on the first week of March are from South Sudan towns of Malakal, Maiwut and Lankien. After spending close to a month at Pagak entry point, they were later relocated to the new Kule refugee camp where they have been provided with emergency kits.

Poor road infrastructure and security concerns still calls for urgent relocation of refugees to safer and proper camp sites. However, NRC’s team in the field continue to accommodate the basic needs of refugees.

The extended Horn of Africa region is volatile and frequently affected by natural disasters and human driven conflicts with South Sudan being a case in point. The fighting has claimed thousands of lives and caused untold damage on public and private property. More than 900,000 people have been displaced and uprooted since fighting erupted mid-December between South Sudan Government’s army and opposition forces. Since the flare-up of the conflict, influx of refugees into Ethiopia has increased exponentially and this has necessitated  the opening of new camps in Lietchor, 180km from Gambella city and Tierkidi/Kule 25 km away from Pagak entry point.

New arrivals at Pagak. Photo: NRC/Melchizedek Malile

Between January and March 2014, the number of South Sudanese refugees who crossed into Ethiopia amounted to 74,118. Out of this, 39,588 relocated to Lietchor, Fugnido and Kule while others waiting by the border entry points of  Matar, Pochalla, Burbuiey, Akobo and pagak to be relocated to the camps. Lietchor Refugee Camp was intended to host 14,000 asylum seekers from Wanthowa Woreda in 2014, but the ongoing conflict and the influx of refugees has necessitated a change of plans and it now  hosts refugees from all entry points.

There is high demand for services and amenities upon the refugees’ arrival. On top of food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene and other basic needs, protection is of high importance to the refugees especially those still at the border point.

Shelter needs

NRC established its field office in Gambella in 2013 to provide adequate support to the South Sudanese refugees through the provision of transitional shelters. By November and early December 2013, NRC Ethiopia’s shelter team in partnership with other area and regional teams were making efforts to meet the shelter needs of the targeted beneficieries in Okugo and Pugnido camps. By the end of December 2013, NRC Gambella shelter team completed the construction of 700 traditional shelters known as Tukuls in Pugnido, and an additional 861 family tents have been completed in Okugo camp.

Okugo refugee camp. Photo: NRC/Emebet Abdissa

In close cooperation with UNHCR and ARRA, NRC’s shelter team is assisting in emergency shelter, latrine and permanent shelters. At the moment, NRC is the only actor responding to shelter needs of the South Sudanese refugees in Gambella region. NRC is also involved in demarcation of plots and clearing of sites for emergency shelters and permanent shelters in the camps.

A mother prepares food for her child in Lietchor refugee camp, Gambella. Photo: NRC/Melchizedek Malile

Around 25 reception centers, more than 400 emergency shelters in Lietchor, 210 family tents and more than 2500 emergency tents in Kule camp are being constructed by NRC. Construction of 300 permanent shelters has been completed out of the targeted 720 in Lietchor camp. In the coming weeks, more funding and quick humanitarian response from all humanitarian actors will be needed to mitigate the deteriorating situation and save lives.

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