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New Camp for Refugees in Gambella

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Ethiopia
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Lutheran World Federation
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Relocation Site for Flooded Leitchuor Camps Established

(LWI) – Hope for the refugees in the flooded Ethiopian camps of Gambella: A new camp site has been approved for relocation. On Sunday 15 March, the Gambella regional authorities endorsed Jewii as the new camp for urgent development ahead of the next rainy season which is expected to start in May or June. The Jewii camp will have a capacity to host 50,000 people, accommodating the refugees, mostly women and children, from the flood-affected Leitchuor.

LWF Ethiopia has been operational in Leitchuor camp since the beginning in February 2014, responding to the immediate life-saving needs in terms of water supply, hygiene and sanitation. Leitchuor and Nip Nip camp however are situated in an area prone to flooding. During the wet season, the whole area turns into a shallow lake, dotted with small islands of higher ground here and there.

Between August and October 2014, most of the Nuer zones in the Gambella region experienced what became known as the “emergency within an emergency”. The flooding was so extreme that people left their tents and camped on the elevated roads. Throughout the year 2014 the Ethiopian government officials together with humanitarian agencies have been searching for suitable sites in the Gambella region.

“More than 51,300 refugees residing in the inundated land in deplorable conditions have been waiting for over half a year to be relocated to an area that would be safe and conducive to dignified living while in exile,” Sophie Gebreyes, LWF Country Representative in Ethiopia, says. “Our commitment has been to the refugees; to stay with them during the hardships of the floods and uncertainties, and to accompany them to their new resettlement”.

With the influx of 196,000 South Sudanese arrivals since December 2013, Ethiopia became the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa with 670 000 refugees. South Sudanese refugees who are scattered in various locations across Western Ethiopia account for the majority (38%) of the 670,000 refugees in total. More than 100,000 additional asylum seekers are projected to arrive during the year 2015.

As the relocation of the 48,428 refugees from Leitchuor to the undeveloped Jewii is about to begin, LWF Ethiopia has been urged to mobilize further resources and to focus on supporting the establishment of the Jewii camp, for which an additional US$16.5 million are needed in total.

“Due to financial, logistical, and protection-related challenges, it is unlikely that all refugees will be relocated before the rainy season starts again. LWF staff will remain in the Leitchuor camp to support the refugees and host community with life-saving activities such as sanitation and hygiene promotion, waste management and distribution of core relief items,” Country Representative Gebreyes says.