UN Relocates 50,000 Refugees in Ethiopia to Avoid Flood Risk

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, announced on 17 March 2015 that it will begin relocating more than 50,000 South Sudanese refugees from flood-prone areas of western Ethiopia to avoid flood risks posed by the start of the rainy season.

The refugees are being moved from the Leitchuor and Nip Nip refugee camps in the Gambella region. UNHCR say that the move has been prompted by floods last year when both camps were severely hit by flooding in August 2014 after heavy rainfall caused the Baro River to overflow.

Refugees will be taken by bus for a 300-kilometre-long journey, which takes about eight hours, to new camps at either Pugnido or Jewi.

“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, adding that the strategy also includes the development of projects aimed at ensuring peaceful co-existence between refugees who opt to remain and the host community.

Bentiu Refugee Camp, South Sudan

The refugee camp in Bentiu, South Sudan, is also regularly hit by severe floods, causing further misery for the camps 50,000 residents, as well as increasing the risk of water-borne diseases. Bentiu flooded in June last year after 2 days of heavy rain in the area. The camp is in a low-lying area, making it vulnerable to flooding, although residents are reluctant to leave the safety of the camp for higher ground.

Floods in refugee camp at Bentiu, August 2014. Photo: UN Photo / Flickr
Floods in refugee camp at Bentiu, August 2014. Photo: UN Photo / Flickr