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Ethiopian refugees in Sudan swell above 40,000: UN

Ethiopian refugees in Sudan swell above 40,000: UN
UN human rights office warns both sides in Ethiopia conflict to protect civilians

By Peter Kenny

GENEVA (AA) - The UN agencies expressed deep concern Tuesday about the humanitarian and human rights situation due to fighting in Ethiopia's Tigray region, with the bloc’s refugee agency saying more than 40,000 refugees have crossed into eastern Sudan.

"The number of Ethiopian refugees streaming into eastern Sudan has now surpassed 40,000 since the crisis began, with more than 5,000 women, children, and men fleeing the ongoing fighting in the Tigray region over the weekend," said UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch.

Speaking at a briefing for Geneva-based journalists covering the UN, he said that the UNHCR remains concerned about civilians inside Ethiopia, including displaced populations and aid workers in Tigray.

"In terms of refugee arrivals, almost half of them are children," said Baloch.

"The stats I have say 45% are children from zero to 17 years of age. The daily average of refugee arrivals is nearly 3,000 since the crisis began."

He also said the UNHCR is joining its UN partners in calling on all parties of the conflict to comply with their international obligations to protect civilians.

"We reiterate our call for free, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access so that humanitarian assistance can reach people that rely on it," said Baloch.

At the same briefing Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged the parties to the conflict in Tigray to give clear and unambiguous orders to their forces to take constant care to spare – and protect – the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities.

"The highly aggressive rhetoric on both sides regarding the fight for Mekelle is dangerously provocative and risks placing already vulnerable and frightened civilians in grave danger," said Shamdasani, quoting the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet.

Bachelet said: "I fear such rhetoric will lead to further violations of international humanitarian law."

She expressed alarm at reports of a heavy build-up of tanks and artillery around Mekelle, the Tigray province's capital city, following the government's issuance of a 72-hour ultimatum.

"Such rhetoric suggests possible breaches of the cardinal principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution in the conduct of hostilities that are designed to ensure the civilian population is protected."

The World Food Programme's (WFP) Geneva spokesman Tomson Phiri said there is alarm at the growing number of people in need of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia and Sudan because of the conflict in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.

source: News Feed
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