By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
October 27, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Monday said South Sudanese refugees continue to flee to Ethiopia in large numbers.
- Ethiopia has witnessed a huge influx of South Sudanese refugees since conflict erupted in the young nation in December 2013 (AFP)
UNHCR officials said that since conflict in South Sudan erupted in mid-December last year, 245,000 South Sudanese, mostly women and children, have crossed the border.
Worsening food insecurity and ongoing fighting between government troops and rebel forces led by former vice-president Riek Machar in the young nation are blamed for the continued influx of refugees.
Since the end of August, nearly 60,000 refugees have fled to the Gambela region, swelling the total number of Ethiopia’s South Sudanese population to 304,000.
The UN refugee agency said Gambela had already exceeded its capacity and was struggling to provide shelter to the new arrivals.
According to UN officials, more refugees are expected to arrive in the coming weeks, adding that new camps will need to be built to cope with the huge influx.
They stressed a need for more funds to provide humanitarian assistance quickly and adequately.
In August, UNHCR announced that Ethiopia has become Africa’s biggest refugee-hosting nation, overtaking neighbouring Kenya.
As of the end of July, Ethiopia was sheltering 629,718 refugees, surpassing Kenya, which was then hosting 575,334 refugees.
The large influx of South Sudanese refugees was the main factor behind Ethiopia’s elevation to the continent’s largest refugee-hosting nation.
South Sudan erupted in violence in mid-December last year following an internal split in the country’s ruling party (SPLM), reigniting tribal tensions and bringing the young nation to the brink of famine.
Thousands have been killed and more than 1.5 million displaced in the more than 10-month-long conflict.