Ethiopia + 3 more

UNHCR Regional Update #11: Ethiopia Situation (Tigray Region), 1 - 14 February

Situation Report
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Key Developments


  • More than 61,200 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into East Sudan as of 14 February.
  • 20,572 refugees have been relocated to Um Rakuba camp, and 14,551 refugees to Tunaydbah settlement. Relocations from Hamdayet reception center resumed as of 14 February with more than 1,000 relocated to Tunaydbah settlement.
  • UNHCR and partners continue to establish refugee community structures at all sites.


  • UNHCR and partners have established a regular presence in the two southern Eritrean refugee camps, Mai-Aini and Adi Harush. UNHCR will also use the new operational base at Debark to support the IDP response in the Tigray region.
  • The Ethiopian government has announced the closure of Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps and the relocation of Eritrean refugees dispersed across Tigray to Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush camps. So far, some 5,000 have relocated to the two southern camps.
  • A relocation taskforce consisting of UNHCR, government counterpart ARRA and key partners is ensuring rapid establishment of shelter and other services at Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush camps.



The humanitarian situation across the Tigray Region remains deeply concerning. Many refugees, internally displaced persons and host communities have endured more than three months of conflict with extremely limited assistance, leading to a significant escalation in humanitarian needs. The security situation remains volatile especially in rural areas, and in and around Shire, affecting civilians and constraining humanitarian actors on the ground. Basic services have gradually resumed in parts of Tigray, however, electricity and banking services remain intermittent.

Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps: UNHCR and humanitarian partners have had no access to Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps for more than three months. The Ethiopian government has announced the closure of the two refugee camps. UNHCR estimates between 15,000 and 20,000 refugees who had been residing in the two camps have dispersed across the region and further beyond. On 23 January, the authorities initiated the relocation – mainly from Shire to date – of refugees who have fled Shimelba and Hitsats refugee camps to Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush refugee camps.

Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush refugee camps: UNHCR and partners are planning for the relocation of some 15,000 Eritrean refugees from Hitsats and Shimelba camps to Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush camps. More than 5,000 have so far arrived, some on their own while others were transported by the government. The relocated population are receiving core relief items and food rations upon arrival.

UNHCR has set up an operational hub in Debark to support the re-establishment of services in Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush refugee camps. The team is strengthening protection and registration services in the camps. WASH, shelter and health specialists are on the ground.

Shelter: The relocation taskforce consisting of UNHCR, government counterpart ARRA and key partners are looking to rapidly expand shelter and services at Mai-Aini and Adi-Harush camps. Shelter remains an urgent protection concern. UNHCR and partners continue to work on identifying potential additional space and shelter solutions to host relocated refugees.

IDPs in Shire: The first UN mission to Shire town took place earlier this month. UNICEF accompanied the Regional Health Bureau head, with six trucks of 122 tons of emergency supplies. The UNICEF team found there was no drinking water as the water treatment plant is not functioning. UNICEF and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society are trucking water to the most vulnerable families.

An estimated 52,000 IDPs are hosted in and around Shire. UNHCR and partners have provided humanitarian assistance to nearly 8,500 IDPs residing in three sites in Shire town, including clean water, establishing health facilities, referrals for health services, reproductive health, psychological first aid, upgrading and installing WASH facilities and educational activities. Mattresses, blankets, soap, and high energy biscuits have been distributed. Measures for prevention and response to gender-based violence are also being instituted. The Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS) has identified serious protection concerns among the IDP population including instances of rape, HIV and unsafe abortions.

IDPs and refugees in Mekelle: A UNHCR mission departed to Mekelle on 11 February to look at scaling up UNHCR’s Mekelle office to meet the protection and humanitarian needs of refugees and IDPs. There are currently seven IDP sites in Mekelle with an estimated 50,000 IDPs. Protection concerns of family separation, unaccompanied children, and trauma have been identified.

In Mekelle, World Vision distributed 1,000 NFI kits in the Southern zone and 560 kits in Alamata and Chercher, as well as more than 600 jerricans, buckets and washing basins.


As of 14 February, the influx of refugees from the Tigray region into Sudan had surpassed 61,200. Refugees continue to arrive mainly at Hamdayet transit center with fewer number of new arrivals to Village 8.

The new arrivals tell of walking long distances to reach Sudan. Refugees had to leave the elderly and chronically ill behind in Ethiopia. They also indicate they were without food and water during flight.

Relocation: Since 13 November, 20,572 refugees were relocated from Hamdayet and Abderafi border points, and Village 8 transit site to Um Rakuba – 70kms away from the Ethiopian border. Um Rakuba camp has reached full capacity and no further relocations will take place except for family reunification purposes.

On 3 January, UNHCR and partners began relocations to the new settlement, Tunaydbah – 136kms away from Gedaref town. By 14 February, more than 14,551 refugees had been relocated.

According to registration figures some 24,000 refugees at Village 8 (2,663) and (22,760) at Hamdayet are yet to be relocated to Tunaydbah. However, UNHCR in coordination with the Commissioner for Refugees (COR) completed an initial verification exercise to identify the actual Ethiopian refugee population in Hamdayet and the town, and have estimated the figure to be closer to 15,000. Relocation of refugees remains a priority to ensure their safety and security away from the border.

UNHCR is holding daily discussions with refugee leaders and refugees who remain in Village 8 to understand their reluctance to relocate to Tunaydbah. Some stated their commodities (motorbikes/tractors/livestock) are still in Village 8 customs area. UNHCR’s legal partner is following-up with the authorities. Other reasons include refugees wanting to observe the security situation in Ethiopia with the hope of returning, while some are also waiting for family members that are yet to arrive in Village 8. Refugees also reported receiving information from Tunaydbah that there is no accommodation and other services. UNHCR and COR continue to engage refugees to provide up-to-date information on land extension and services provided in Tunaydbah and on the process of customs in Sudan.

COVID-19 precautionary measures such as social distancing, temperature checks, and the use of masks are in place during relocation movements. Refugees are also provided with water and high energy biscuits for the trip.