By Charles Empath in Hamdeet, Sudan November 26, 2020
Lezabu is frantic with worry. A single mother of three has not seen her two daughters since fleeing a crisis in northern Ethiopia in the Tigris region and moving to eastern Sudan.
“My oldest daughter left with her younger sister. Not me‘I do not know where they are. “Several weeks have passed without news,” said Lezabu, who is currently staying at a reception center in Hamdeet, near Sudan’s eastern border with Ethiopia, where thousands of refugees continue to arrive.
The 38-year-old farmer fled his small town of about 42,000 after fighting broke out.
“I think hundreds of people were killed that day,” she added.
“My oldest daughter left with her younger sister. Not me‘“I do not know where they are.”
Ana *, a public health officer who worked at a health facility when the attacks took place, also fled as the clashes approached.
“We heard screams and we knew we had to run for life,” she said.
Anne and her family joined her neighbor that night, who was transporting them in his tractor. But gunmen ambushed them, forcing them to flee in the opposite direction. She separated from her children and husband, ending up in the city of Humera, where she heard it was safer.
“But the moment we arrived in town, we saw someone shoot in the head, right in front of us,” she said, trembling. “We have seen many robberies; people stole from houses. “We were very scared.”
After five days in hiding in Homer, she managed to find herself safely across the border with Sudan.
“We saw someone shoot in the head, right in front of us.”
Lezabu and Anna are among a recent wave of refugees arriving in Hamdeet, over 400km from the Ethiopian border. More than 5,000 women, children and men fled the ongoing fighting over the weekend, bringing the number of Ethiopian refugees entering Sudan to more than 40,000 since the crisis began in early November.
The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency and its partners deliver and distribute life-saving aid, including hot meals, water and toilet bowls. Staff at the Hamdeet border crossing in Kasala state and the Lugdi border crossing in Gedaref state register thousands of new arrivals every day.
The most vulnerable refugees, including the elderly, pregnant and lactating women and children, receive special care, including complementary feeding.
But the humanitarian response continues to face logistical challenges.
Relocating refugees across the border has been hampered by logistics and distance, limiting the number of people transferred to the Umm Rakuba camp in Gedaref, about 80km inside Sudan.
“We have a challenge which is mainly the relocation of refugees. The process takes more than 15 hours from this reception center to Um Rakuba. That’s a lot of work, “said Mamoun Abuarkub, UNHCR’s emergency coordinator who oversees the situation.
„We never expected to be refugees. “I can tell you that for sure.”
As more and more people continue to flock to Sudan, refugees like Philemon are trying to come to terms with the situation.
„We never expected to be refugees. “We never expected these things because we were in a very safe situation,” Philemon said. “We were developing and trying to help our families. “We never expected this, I can tell you for sure.”
Robert, a college-educated teenager, nodded in agreement.
“Everything was fine. “But now I have lost my mother and sister in the madness of this situation,” he said. “I just hope we find peace again.”
* names have been changed for protection