Women and girls at risk as people flee Ethiopia conflict for Sudan

By CARE Australia November 18, 2020 0 comments

Clashes that started in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia on 4 November have already forced more than 27,000 people to flee into Sudan, and the aid agency CARE is warning that women and girls are at particular risk.

The number of people crossing the border is predicted to rise to a staggering 200,000 over the coming days and weeks. This will put immense pressure on the southern Sudanese states of Gedaref and Kassala which have not seen displacement of this level for over two decades.

CARE Sudan Emergency Coordinator Hanan Elhaj says: “A significant number of the women arriving are pregnant and lactating mothers which adds additional challenges and health risks. Among these are also incredibly vulnerable female-headed households, or those with elderly relatives who have lost everything in the conflict.

“The number of refugees already exceeds the capacity of the two sites designated by the government for this influx and the border areas are congested with people waiting to be relocated. People are arriving exhausted and afraid – it is truly a terrible situation.”

CARE – which has worked in Sudan since 1979 – is already in the area improving water, sanitation, health, nutrition, and COVID-19 prevention for local people and more than 40,000 refugees in Shagrab Refugee Camp. The newly-arrived refugees’ immediate needs are food, water, sanitation, healthcare, emergency shelter and sanitary pads for women and girls.

Hanan Elhaj says: “Sudan is already recovering from some of the worst floods in our recent history, with over 7 million people facing high levels of acute food insecurity, as well as continuing COVID-19 cases and a resurgence of polio cases in Gedaref, that are putting added pressure on a stretched health system.

“Now the arrival of potentially hundreds of thousands of refugees who are desperately in need of everything from food, to medical care and a place to stay, is creating a true humanitarian crisis for the country, the likes of which have not been seen for many years. This is not a situation we predicted in our emergency scenario planning. We are honestly worried how we will cope.”

Donations to emergencies such as this can be made to CARE Australia’s Global Emergency Fund.

For media enquiries, contact Iona Salter on 0413 185 634. 

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