The UNHCR regains access to Eritrean refugee camps

The United Nations high commission for refugees, a subdivision of the UN Refugee Agency, regained access to two refugee camps in Tigray. It found Eritrean refugees in desperate need of supplies and services two months after conflict in the region forced humanitarian workers to withdraw for their safety.

 

UNHCR led the first humanitarian mission to Mai Aini and Adi Harush refugee camps for the first time since the start of the conflict in November. The assessment concluded last week after being granted one-time access by the Ethiopian authorities to conduct a needs assessment.

Thousands of refugees cut off from needed supplies

In the assessment carried out by UNHCR, it was found that help is urgently needed for the tens of thousands of Eritrean refugees in northern Ethiopia. Refugees have been cut off from any supplies and services for more than two months.

 

Supplies such as food, water, clothing, among others are needed. Wells are not functional due to lack of fuel for the pumps—leaving refugees to use water from a nearby creek for washing, cooking and drinking, resulting in diarrhea like illnesses.

 

The refugees have been subsiding on the one-time food distribution donation received from the World Food Program (WFP) almost a month ago. Plans are underway for a second distribution.

Refugees threatened by armed groups

Refugees told members of the UNHCR that while they are not impacted directly from the fighting, they are repeatedly threatened and harassed by various armed groups. These armed groups have repeatedly roamed the camps at night, stealing, looting and threatening the refugees.

 

The UNHCR is working with the government and partners to re-establish their presence at the camps, and launch a response based on the information collected.

 

The agency has still not had access to the Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps in Northern Tigray, where there are reports of significant damage to the refugee camps.