Thousands of Sudanese Refugees Face New Hardships After Leaving Camps in Ethiopia's Amhara Region

Thousands of Sudanese Refugees Face New Hardships After Leaving Camps in Ethiopia's Amhara Region

Cairo - Sudanese refugees fleeing the civil war have been forced to relocate again from camps in Ethiopia's northern Amhara region due to repeated attacks by gunmen. These attacks have left their tents riddled with bullet holes, compelling them to seek refuge in forests and along roadsides.

Around 8,000 people have abandoned the Kumer and Awlala refugee camps, established by the United Nations, following last month's assaults predominantly carried out by bandits, according to camp representatives.

The refugees originally fled Sudan in April 2023 to escape the conflict between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a conflict that has caused extreme hunger and ethnic cleansing accusations in Darfur.

"We left our country because we were scared of the stray bullets from the army and RSF," one young man explained via phone. "We sought refuge in Ethiopia to save our lives, and now we are facing the same danger."

The young man, who had traveled from Khartoum to the camps and now shelters in a forest in Amhara, spoke anonymously for fear of reprisals. Images shared through WhatsApp and Telegram depict makeshift shelters of branches and tarps and groups of refugees, including many children, sitting by roadsides. Reuters verified the authenticity and location of the photographs.

These accounts highlight the dire lack of options for Sudanese refugees seeking safety in countries grappling with their own conflicts and resource shortages.

The Ethiopian government's Refugee and Returnee Service did not respond to requests for comment. In early May, it stated it was working with refugees to address safety and service concerns despite limited resources.

The UNHCR acknowledged security incidents in a recent statement, describing the environment as "deeply challenging" but did not provide further details. The agency noted Ethiopian police had increased patrols and encouraged around 1,000 people outside Awlala to return to the camps.

Sudan's conflict has resulted in the world's largest displacement crisis, with over 8.9 million people displaced. More than 122,000 have fled to Ethiopia, according to the International Organization for Migration.

Medical Teams International, operating a clinic near the camps, reported one of its staff members was killed when armed men attacked a convoy last week.

Refugees outside the camps report ongoing violence. "People have to go to the valley to bathe and wash clothes. But they are either robbed, beaten up, or kidnapped daily," a camp committee leader said. "We are facing catastrophe after catastrophe."

Cholera has spread in Kumer, where only one doctor is available, refugees and an aid worker said. Monthly food deliveries from the U.N. World Food Programme last less than two weeks, according to two refugees.

In protest of their dire conditions, about 6,000 refugees from Kumer and Awlala attempted to walk 170 km to the UNHCR headquarters in Gondar on May 1. They were stopped by police and sought shelter in a nearby forest, where many began a 10-day hunger strike until donations from Sudanese abroad provided some relief.

Approximately 2,000 refugees who remained at Kumer fled to a main road after gunmen attacked the camp on May 1. Returning refugees found their tents riddled with bullet holes, convincing them that the attackers aimed to drive them out.

Aid efforts have been severely hindered by insecurity and funding shortages. The U.N. reports that only $400,000 of the $175 million needed for Sudanese refugees in Ethiopia has been received.

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