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Grandi calls for peace in Ethiopia, stresses ‘there is no military solution’

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High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi speaks with an Ethiopian refugee boy in Sudan’s Um Rakuba camp. © UNHCR/Samuel Otieno

High Commissioner for Refugees visits eastern Sudan to bring focus to the situation of nearly 48,000 Ethiopians who have fled Tigray.

By Catherine Wachiaya in Um Rakuba camp, Sudan | 25 August 2021

Hailu Mehari crossed into Sudan last November with his wife and their two children, leaving behind raging conflict across Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

The 65-year-old father of four met UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who visited eastern Sudan, where close to 48,000 Ethiopian refugees live in two camps, Um Rakuba and Tunaydbah.

Grandi met Hailu in Um Rakuba where he spoke with him and several refugees including young men and women, children, people living with disabilities and the elderly. They raised various issues, ranging from access to proper health care, shelter and food.

“We lost our home, our farm, everything. I am not showing all my emotions as it is still so painful,” said Hailu, who owned large swathes of farmland and left them unharvested after violence broke out.

“I am grateful for everything I have received in Sudan.”

Hailu added that he was glad to have made it out safely.

“It’s difficult here but I am very happy to be alive. I am grateful for everything I have received in Sudan,” he said.

Grandi noted that the situation is very challenging and added that UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency is working closely with the government of Sudan and other aid agencies to improve services.

“Conditions in the camp are fragile as in any humanitarian situation but they have improved. We’ve seen services such as education, food distributions and healthcare being offered to the refugees,” he said.

He commended the government and the people of Sudan for their continued hospitality towards refugees, despite hosting more than 1 million other refugees and grappling with a displacement crisis of over 2.5 million internally displaced Sudanese, amid growing economic challenges.

“It’s not that they don’t have problems in other parts of the country so it’s really something that the international community needs to appreciate more,” he said.

“There is no military solution to this problem.”

The High Commissioner was joined by the Norwegian Minister of International Development, Dag-Inge Ulstein.

“The host communities here are such a good example for the rest of the world. They are very warm and have welcomed refugees openly,” the Minister said.

He appreciated efforts by aid agencies in responding to refugees’ needs.

“The UN agencies and UNHCR are really doing a tremendous job setting up this site in such a short time while also building trust with the local communities,” he added.

Hailu and his wife Tsige are also struggling to cope with being separated from their older children who remained behind in Tigray.

“I miss my other children and I still get emotional,” said Tsige. “This week when I thought about them, I became very stressed and had stomach pains. I’m even struggling to talk about it now.”

Hailu added that they last communicated with his older brother and his children in June but haven’t heard from them since.

“I hope and pray for their safety,” he said, adding that although they lost everything, they appreciate making it to Sudan.

Grandi noted that many of the refugees he spoke to would like to return home but only if there is peace. He reiterated that “there is no military solution to this problem” and the only way to restore peace in Ethiopia is through diplomatic negotiation and political talks.

“That’s the only way to create conducive conditions for the thousands of people hosted in Sudan, to be able to go back voluntarily, in safety and dignity,’ he said.