On 1 May, the UN Migration Agency (IOM) began the transfer of South Sudanese refugees from Ethiopia’s Pagak border entry point in Gambella to the Gore-Shembola refugee camp in Benishangul Gumuz Regional States, approximately 835 km away.
With recent fighting and severe food insecurity further worsening the already dismal humanitarian situation in South Sudan, an additional 30,000 refugees are expected to enter Gambella over the coming months. Refugee camps in Gambella, one of Ethiopia’s least developed regions, are currently at maximum capacity with the total number of South Sudanese refugees surpassing that of the local population.
IOM, in collaboration with the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), carried out an assessment of the potential route from Pagak border entry point to Gore-Shembola refugee camp in Benishangul, to ensure the safe and dignified migration of the refugees.
Prior to relocation, IOM provided pre-departure medical screenings to ensure refugees are fit for travel, referring those who present medical concerns to local health facilities. IOM is also working in coordination with Plan International to provide psychosocial support and protection services for unaccompanied minors.
“The journey from Jonglei to Pagak has been really difficult. We have walked for six days straight and my children and I have eaten only wild fruit from the forest,” said Nyakim. She and her four children are among the 365 refugees who were transferred to Gore-Shembola refugee camp in Benishangul this week. The struggles of the journey to reach Ethiopia are clearly visible – Nyakim’s four children suffer from skin rashes and a cough. They fled Jonglei due to renewed fighting. Leaving her husband behind, she made the perilous journey to ensure the safety of her children.
“IOM has set up two way stations, one at Metu (275 km from the Pagak entry point) and the other at Gimbi (310 km from Metu),” said Anezier Ebrahim, IOM Officer in charge of the operation, explaining the route taken to reach Gore-Shembola refugee camp. “The way stations have been constructed with the financial assistance of the United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) and provide overnight accommodation, shelter and meals for refugees in transit from the border entry point to the camp,” he continued.
IOM worked in collaboration with Action for the Needy in Ethiopia (ANE) for way station site preparations and the provision of latrines, showers and water.
“Continued transportation assistance is urgently required to ensure newly arrived refugees’ access to basic services in the camps. IOM remains committed to assist refugees with transportation from Pagak border entry point to Gore-Shembola refugee camp in the coming months,” added Ebrahim.