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GENEVA, March 13 (UNHCR) - Some
15,000 Lou Nuer tribespeople have fled to western Ethiopia from
South Sudan in recent weeks to escape clashes with a rival tribe
and for fear of reprisal attacks.
"Most are women, children and elderly people who fled from Akobo
County in Jonglei state following clashes there earlier this year,"
UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told journalists in Geneva on
Tuesday. "Many of them say they were displaced for weeks in Jonglei
before they managed to reach Ethiopia."
Lou Nuer and Murle tribespeople in Jonglei have been engaged in
attacks and counter-attacks over cattle, grazing land and water
points for several years. Clashes between these two tribes in
December and January have affected some 120,000 people in the
Edwards said that fresh fighting between the two tribes was
reported last weekend in Akobo, and he added that "UNHCR is
concerned at the possibility of further forced displacement."
In Ethiopia, the new arrivals are settling around the border
town of Matar in the Gambella region, some 500 kilometres west of
Addis Ababa. Most of them are living in makeshift huts, according
to UNHCR staff who have visited the area with partner agencies and
the Ethiopian authorities.
"The local communities in Matar have been sharing their meagre
resources with the new arrivals, including food and water. The
influx has stretched water and sanitation facilities beyond
capacity," Edwards said. The World Food Programme is extending food
distribution to this area to benefit everybody.
UNHCR is helping the Ethiopian authorities to set up a reception
centre near Matar, where the new arrivals are being screened by the
Ethiopian refugee agency (ARRA) before they are relocated to
Fugnido refugee camp, some 110 kms from Gambella.
"We have so far transferred 1,300 new arrivals to the camp,
where they are registered as asylum-seekers and issued with food
ration cards," Edwards said, adding that UNHCR had also sent
additional staff to support the government's registration efforts
in Fugnido. Registration is needed to best organize the delivery of
protection and assistance to the population in need.
Last week, UNHCR started distributing to families in Fugnido an
initial aid kit, including tents, plastic sheets, blankets, kitchen
sets and jerry cans from our
stockpile in Gambella. ARRA provides them with food. UNHCR has
pre-positioned more relief items, including family tents for those
asylum-seekers who will be transferred from the border area to
Fugnido refugee camp was opened in 1993 and hosted some 40,000
refugees at one point. Before the new influx, it was home to some
23,000 refugees, mainly from Sudan. Now these long-staying refugees
are hosting and extending their help to the new arrivals from South