IOM is strengthening its transport infrastructure in anticipation of a new wave of displaced Sudanese fleeing the fighting in and around Blue Nile and Jonglei States in South Sudan.
The Organization has opened a sub-office in Assosa, the capital of Benishangul Gumuz region of Ethiopia on the border with Sudan, and has contracted local service providers to shuttle the refugees crossing the border to camps in Ethiopia.
Ten buses and four trucks are being used from different entry points to the camps, covering distances that range from 60 km to over 200km. To date IOM has provided transport to 16,805 displaced from various entry points into Ethiopia to the camps.
The new arrivals, many of them carrying belongings or travelling with animals, are expected to cross the common border into Ethiopia any time soon, following increased fighting between the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, North Sector, SPLA-N and Sudanese armed forces in various locations inside Blue Nile State.
IOM and partners including UNHCR are revising contingency plans and infrastructure as it is generally anticipated that the new influx will begin in Gambella region, south of the current location of Benishangul region.
Many of the displaced have been hiding in the bush for weeks surviving on the few provisions they had managed to take with them and which have now run out. A great number of women and children are known to be among the displaced.
Although exact numbers on the refugees are not known, UNHCR has increased its planning figure to 50,000 new arrivals from Sudan, almost double the original estimate when the conflict began.
Since the beginning of the fighting in Blue Nile in September 2011 between Sudanese armed forces and the SPLA-N, displaced Sudanese have been crossing into Ethiopia at an average rate of 200-300 a day. In the early days, most of the displaced chose to stay close to the border hoping to return to their homes quickly.
However, with increased fighting between the groups dispelling hopes for a quick resolution to their situation, the displaced are increasingly choosing to take refuge in the camps located far from the border. The number of those who have crossed into Ethiopia currently stands at 35,000. The majority are being accommodated in three camps inside Ethiopia: Tongo, Sherkole and Adamazine.
With the newly-displaced continuing to arrive, the three camps are reaching capacity and two new camps are being planned near Bambasi, south of Assosa.
IOM, which coordinates closely with UNHCR and the Ethiopia's Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), has been providing transport to those who are fleeing the war since the beginning of the conflict last year.
The Organization is also carrying out pre-departure medical checks and escort for all refugees being taken to the camps.
IOM's transport assistance to the displaced Sudanese has received USD 300,000 funding from UNHCR in response to an IOM appeal for USD 1.1 million. More funding is needed to enable the Organization to continue with its work.