The total number of South Sudanese refugees who have entered Ethiopia since the outbreak of the conflict in mid-December 2013 is now over 193,922 individuals, comprising 191,359 individuals who entered through Gambella and 2,563 who entered through the Assosa region.
The average arrival rate of South Sudanese refugees to the Gambella region has remained low during the rainy season, with an average of 97 South Sudanese refugees arriving daily in Gambella during the week through Burbiey. New arrivals from Burbiey were relocated to Matar way station with assistance from IOM for transport.
Following the announcement by ARRA and UNHCR that the relocation by IOM of 15,000 South Sudanese refugees from the Matar way station to Pugnido would begin, over the last week UNHCR and partners have been focussed on preparing for the relocation exercise. In Pugnido, site clearance is on-going, as is the construction of new reception hangars and the extension of WASH facilities. By 17 November, tents were pitched in one block and all reception hangars were ready for use.
The relocation started on schedule on 17 November, with support from IOM for transport. Thus far, IOM has relocated over 500 individuals from Matar where there are approximately 13,000 people waiting. There are plans to increase the numbers of refugees relocated in each movement.
The new UNHCR Representative to Ethiopia, Mr Valentin Tapsoba, arrived in Gambella to witness the first relocation movement of South Sudanese refugees from the Matar way station to Pugnido camp. The Representative was received upon arrival at Gambella Airport by the President of the Gambella Regional State, ARRA, and the UNHCR Head of Sub-Office, and will also meet Government officials, UNHCR staff, and partners. He is accompanied by the ARRA Deputy Director, Ato Ayalew Aweke.
The Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration, Centre for Disease Control and the Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Addis Ababa visited the Gambella region. The mission visited the camps and held meetings with refugees, UNHCR and partners. The objective of the mission was to undertake monitoring and evaluation of US Government funded programs and to assess the refugee humanitarian situation in the region. In Pugnido, the mission visited health centres, WASH facilities and schools.
The Refugee Coordination Model (RCM) mission visited Gambella. During their three days in Gambella, the mission visited the Pagak border entry point and flew to the flood-affected Leitchuor Camp where meetings were meetings held with refugees and partners. The delegation, accompanied by the UNHCR Deputy Representative Mr Bornwell Kantande, also held a meeting with the Gambella Refugee Inter-Agency Task Force.