Speaking at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Friday 20th November, Abdullah Fadil, the UNICEF Representative in Sudan, raised concerns about the potentially devastating impact Ethiopia’s conflict may place on neighbouring Sudan. Violence in northern Ethiopia between federal troops and forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has already forced thousands from their homes, often to neighbouring Sudan. Fadil estimates that, in a two-week period, more than 31,000 Ethiopians have arrived in Sudan, and currently the country is receiving around 4,000 – 5,000 refugees each day. Although Reuters reports that UN agencies are preparing for up to 200,000 refugee arrivals in Sudan over the next six months, Fadil warns that the current rate is “not sustainable” and has called on the international community to do more to solve the conflict in Ethiopia.
In his press briefing, Fadil reaffirmed the extent of the humanitarian crisis that has been brought about by fighting in Ethiopia. Most are still unsure of the current conditions in the northern Tigray region and the country as a whole. Refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries have reported massacres against civilians, and UNICEF currently estimate that there are 2.3 million children within the Tigray region in need of humanitarian assistance.
According to the Guardian, UNHCR have also reported that conditions for refugees arriving in Sudan are deeply troubling, citing overcrowded camps, with poor sanitation and limited access to food and water. Whilst reinforcing the widespread need for humanitarian assistant to a large, and growing, number of Ethiopians, Mr. Fadil also highlighted the potentially destabilizing effects a large and sudden influx of refugees could have on Sudan. He raised concerns that without a greater response from the international community, Sudan, a country facing “its own economic and political issues,” may start to “unravel” alongside Ethiopia.
Fadil’s statement is a reminder that the impacts of conflict are rarely contained within national borders. Not enough has been done by the international community to address the growing violence that has escalated rapidly within Ethiopia. Although the UN have called for an immediate ceasefire in the country, greater efforts must be made to pressure Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, to find a non-violent solution to the crisis. The message from Sudan is clear: if violence in Ethiopia is not brought to an end quickly, it risks initiating a serious humanitarian emergency, whilst also harming the stability and security of neighbouring countries.
Sudan is facing an economic crisis, with an inflation rate that currently stands at 240 percent. Fadil has described lines for fuel and bread in the country, which already hosts 1.2 million refugees and has 2 million internally displaced people of its own. Without proper planning, investment and support from the international community, Sudan lacks the infrastructure to effectively and suitably support the estimated escalation of 200,000 refugees in the next six months. Without proper attention, the risk of Sudan’s economic and security issues worsening becomes increasingly pertinent.
The international community must pay greater attention to the current conflict in the Tigray region, looking to quickly mediate to bring fighting to an end. There must also be a focus on providing the necessary resources and funds to support the humanitarian crisis this conflict has already brought about. If not, fighting between Ethiopian government forces and the TPLF, will cause further suffering for the people of Ethiopia, as well as harming the security of a historically unstable region.
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