GENEVA, Switzerland, November 21, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — IOM has resumed transport by boat and road of South Sudanese refugees stranded by heavy rains and flooding in Matar to Fugnido refugee camp in the Gambella region of Western Ethiopia, 300 kms away, following an agreement between Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and UNHCR.
The relocation operation started this week with the movement of 286 refugees by boat and bus from Matar to Fugnido via the Itang way station. The two-day journey involves an overnight stop in Itang, where IOM, UNHCR and WFP provide food, water, sleeping mats and blankets.
Another 42 vulnerable refugees were moved from Matar to Fugnido in a helicopter provided by UNHCR, with an IOM medical escort.
Since August 2014, IOM has been on standby to resume the relocation of up to 15,000 South Sudanese refugees stranded in and around Matar, which is close to the river border with South sudan and has become uninhabitable due to heavy rains.
According to UNHCR, more than 191,000 South Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in Ethiopia’s border Gambella Region since conflict broke out in South sudan in mid–December 2013. Of these, IOM has relocated over 173,000 to camps in the region.
Some 100 refugees continue to cross into Ethiopia every day, mainly through the Burbiey border entry point (near Matar) from South Sudan’s Upper Nile and Jonglei States.
A multi-agency response led by ARRA and UNHCR is providing protection and registration to the refugees. IOM has been providing emergency evacuation and relocation assistance, pre-departure medical screening, and transitional shelter assistance for them since January 2014.