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Access Restored To Tigray Camps Sheltering Eritrean Refugees

In Ethiopia’s wartorn Tigray region, UN aid workers said on Tuesday that they have reached two refugee camps for Eritrean nationals for the first time since being cut off by fighting last month.

UN refugee agency (UNHCR) spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, told journalists in Geneva that emergency aid had been delivered to the camps’ 23,000 residents, who have been without assistance since 13 July.

But he warned that there is only limited access to Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps in southern Tigray, where healthcare is unavailable and clean drinking water is running out.

“For Mai Aini and Adi Harush…on the 13 July we lost access because of the volatile security situation and clashes that were happening in the area”, he said.

“We have now been able to regain this access and that’s a positive development alongside the fact that we are now able to get some of the assistance into Tigray which is urgently needed, for so many displaced.”

Safe passage call

To protect the camps’ residents, the agency spokesperson called for safe passage so that they could be moved to new facilities in Alemwach, near Dabat town, 135 kilometres away.

He confirmed that two other camps for Eritrean nationals in northern Tigray - Shimelba and Hitsats – had been destroyed at the start of this year, while welcoming the Ethiopian authorities’ decision since 4 August, to issue temporary identification documents to Eritrean refugees in Addis Ababa.

Valid for three years, the documents guarantee assistance, services, and protection, UNHCR said.

Reporting improved humanitarian access into Tigray in the past week, the UNHCR spokesperson said that agency staff and 12 trucks carrying emergency aid had reached Mekelle, the region’s capital.

But unhindered access into Tigray and throughout the region must be ensured by all parties to the conflict, Mr. Cheshirkov insisted, to allow UNHCR and our partners to deliver and scale up life-saving humanitarian assistance and protection “to tens of thousands in dire need of urgent support”, including some “still out of reach” amid active conflict.

The appeal comes amid growing concerns for communities who continue to flee fighting in Tigray’s neighbouring regions, with an estimated 100,000 people displaced in Amhara and 70,000 in Afar.

Sudan refuge

Refugees continue to cross into Sudan from Ethiopia too, Mr. Cheshirkov added, noting that last month, more than 275 refugees - including 40 Eritreans - had arrived in Sudan’s Hamdayet, which borders Tigray.

“A larger group of about 900 people of Qemant ethnicity, crossed into Sudan from the Amhara region through Gallabat,” said Mr. Cheshirkov, noting that UNHCR and its partners were already responding and preparing for a further influx into eastern Sudan.

Protection appeal

The UN agency has appealed for more than $164.5 million to assist around three quarters of a million people in Tigray - and some 120,000 Ethiopian refugees in Sudan.

The majority of the appeal will provide shelter, domestic items and protection, including support for survivors of gender-based violence, inside Tigray.

In addition, some $63 million will strengthen UNHCR’s response in eastern Sudan and Blue Nile State, where protection measures have been put in place, along with shelter, water and sanitation, health, and logistics, the agency reported.

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