With around 1,000 South Sudanese refugees streaming into the Gambela Region, one of the poorest regions in Ethiopia every week, relief workers and agencies warn of an imminent humanitarian crisis as camps reach capacity and assistance is increasingly stretched.
Since the civil war began in mid-December last year, 69,456 South Sudanese refugees have entered
Ethiopia’s Gambela Region.
Two thirds of the arrivals have been children, many of whom are
unaccompanied, according to a March inter-agency report on South Sudanese refugees coordinated by UNHCR.
The report anticipates that 140,000 refugees will enter Ethiopia in the coming months.
“They are arriving on foot, over difficult and remote terrain, in a deteriorating nutritional status, and are traumatized and
exhausted by travel and continuous conflict in their home country,” the report stated. Most of the refugees are women and
children. Many have walked for seven to 10 days to reach the border, living on wild fruit, and are destitute. Many families have
also been separated in the chaos.
Food shortages in South Sudan mean that many of the refugees, especially children, are severely malnourished and ill when
they reach the transit centres at one of seven entry points. The largest, Pagak, transfers on average more than 1,000 people a day to two camps across Gambela Region.
Data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) indicate that there could be an average of
1,000 new arrivals each day to Ethiopia.
The condition of women and children who are crossing over is quite critical at the moment.
A majority of them are malnourished and are also infected with various diarrhoeal
diseases. There have also been cases of measles and other respiratory-related health