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Rain Is Coming: UNHCR Relocates 50,000 South Sudanese Refugees

UNHCR Ethiopia / S. Momodu

18 March 2015 – More than 50,000 South Sudanese refugees are being relocated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) ahead of the start of the rainy season in late April. The refugees are being moved from two refugee camps in flood-prone areas in the Gambella region of western Ethiopia. In August 2014, both camps were severely hit by floodwaters during unusually heavy seasonal rains.

"Our plan is to relocate all willing refugees in a safe and dignified manner", said Angele Djohossou, head of the UNHCR sub-office in Gambella. The strategy also includes the development of projects aimed at ensuring peaceful co-existence between refugees who choose to remain and the host community.

The camps in Leitchuor and Nip Nip were established last year when tens of thousands of South Sudanese fled to the Gambella region in western Ethiopia, escaping the violence that had erupted in mid-December 2013.

An additional new site is being developed to accommodate the larger group of refugees from Leitchuor and the first refugees are expected to be transferred to that camp early next month.

Challenges ahead

Finding the land with the right conditions to set up another refugee camp has been a huge challenge, as several sites that had been identified immediately after last year's rainy season were subsequently declared unsuitable. More land is still needed to accommodate the new arrivals from South Sudan.

Some 2 million people have been uprooted by the violence in South Sudan since December 2013. Nearly 1.5 million people are displaced inside the country and more than half a million across the border into neighbouring countries, most of them to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is Africa's largest refugee-hosting country with more than 670,000 refugees, mainly from Somalia, followed by South Sudan, Sudan and Eritrea. This includes more than 250,000 South Sudanese refugees in the Gambella region, of whom more than 194,000 have arrived since mid-December 2013.

Source: UNHCR

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