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UNHCR Eritrea Info Bulletin: Library opens a world of reading for sudanese refugees

UNHCR Eritrea Factsheet 2003
New Library in Elit Camp Opens

Though this factsheet normally covers issues relating to the repatriation of Eritreans from Sudan, this month, we focus on a special programme for Sudanese refugees in Eritrea.

An education specialist visiting refugee camps in western Tanzania once remarked that the camps were virtually "print-free zones". There were no written signs giving information to the residents, no newspapers for sale in the market, no places for people to read a book or magazine. The implication of her comment was, and is, quite important: without anything to read, the literacy skills taught in refugees schools and adult education classes are quickly lost.

In looking at this problem, UNHCR, the Eritrean Office of Refugee Affairs and the Sudanese community at Elit Refugee Camp have joined efforts to create a place where refugees can not only practice reading skills, but can also get news of the outside world and continue learning. They have a library.

The Elit Camp library, open all day long, occupies an entire room in the camp primary school. UNHCR donated more than 100 books, magazines and informational pamphlets. The school principal has assigned a librarian to provide ideas and assistance. Non-students and adults are also welcome to take advantage of the new facilities, after school hours.

The library is also becoming a meeting center for the community, recently hosting a discussion on ways to improve girls' education in the camp.

The Elit Camp library is just one of more than a dozen educational projects that UNHCR Eritrea, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and non-governmental organizations, has put in place over the past two years for Sudanese and Somali refugees in Eritrea, as well as for the tens of thousands of Eritreans who have returned home from Sudan, some after decades as refugees. These projects include the construction of permanent and makeshift schools, the provision of pedagogic supplies, the recruitment and training of Arabic-speaking teachers, adult education classes, initiatives to support girls' education and much more.

The goal of the UNHCR education program is not only to ensure the access of children to schooling, but to promote education and learning in all its varied forms. With the new library in Elit Camp, we are working to create a print-full zone, where everyone is welcome to come, relax and read.

Key facts and figures:

Number of Refugees in camps in Eritrea:

  • Sudanese: 627
  • Somali: 2,945

Number of Eritreans in camps in Sudan currently registered to repatriate (as of 31 December 2002): 32,571

No. of Eritreans assisted to return since July 2000: 103,000

Zones of return: Gash Barka 95% of which Goluj 38%, Tesseney 41% and Haykota 7% of the whole.

UNHCR-funded reintegration projects (Gash Barka) in 2001: $2,000,000

UNHCR funds allocated for reintegration projects in 2002: $7,000,000

How much it costs to maintain 147,000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan (UNHCR and WFP costs only, not including GoS / bi-lateral and NGO costs, in US dollars):


CAP 2003 Appeal, launched 19 November 2002: $25,159,104

Donor response to the 2002 UNHCR Global Appeal for Eritrea (in USD):

  • ECHO: $860,585
  • USA: $5,350,000
  • Canada*: $324,675
  • Italy: $1,358,387
  • Japan: $3,300,000
  • Netherlands: $1,509,400
  • Norway: 397,878
  • Deutsch Stiftung (GFR): 5,180
  • Allocated by UNHCR: $1,203,373
  • Adjustment/cancellation/refund: $84,107

*Regional contribution, amount represents Eritrea portion only.

Total Contributions for the Refugee, Voluntary Repatriation and Reintegration Programme in Eritrea, 2002: $14,393,585

For more information, please contact: Wendy Rappeport, External Relations Officer UNHCR Eritrea, 291-1-126121, e-mail: