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19 Aug 2014
South Sudanese refugees sit in the shade of a tree. They are living in makeshift shelters as they wait for UNHCR tents. © UNHCR/P.Wiggers
Ethiopia has overtaken Kenya to become the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, sheltering nearly 630,000 refugees as of the end of July, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.
Kenya currently has over 575,000 registered refugees and asylum-seekers.
The number of refugees in Ethiopia has mainly been pushed up by the on-going conflict in South Sudan which has seen over 247,000 south Sudanese seeking refuge in Ethiopia.
Other refugees in the country include Somalis 245,000 and Eritreans 99,000.
UNHCR says it is providing protection and humanitarian aid in 23 refugee camps and five transit camps around the country.
Adrian Edwards is UNHCR Spokesperson in Geneva.
“Three of the camps and three transit sites are new – having been opened since the beginning of the year to handle the growing number of refugees fleeing the fighting in South Sudan. All three camps are at capacity and UNHCR is developing two more. While refugees wait to be moved to the new camps, more than 18,000 are sheltered in three temporary sites in western region of Gambella. However, in recent weeks heavy rain has flooded these three low-lying sites, as well as Leitchuor Camp, where the situation is most serious. Some 10,000 refugees – more than a fifth of Leitchuor’s population of 47,600 – have been hit by flooding. Many tents and shelters are under water and latrines have collapsed. This is a serious health concern and threatens to undermine gains made in preventing the outbreak of water-borne diseases. Refugees have pitched tents on higher camp roads.”
He says the South Sudan’s crisis has caused massive displacement internally and into neighbouring countries.
As of mid-August, 1.8 million South Sudanese had been forcibly displaced, of whom almost 1.3 million are internally displaced and more than 575,000 were refugees in neighbouring countries.
South Sudan is also continuing to host some 243,000 refugees, the majority from Sudan.
Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.