October 14, 2011
Tom Brook, CLWR’s community relations director, reports from a Ethiopian refugee camp housing thousands of Sudanese refugees.
I think we all thought with the division of Sudan into two countries, all was well. That’s not the case. In North Sudan the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM-North) has begun an armed struggle following the recent elections to create a third country and the war is displacing thousands of Sudanese.
It’s nothing new. During the previous struggle, refugees from the north of Sudan streamed into Ethiopia and camps like Sherkole close to the border. After the formation of South Sudan many returned home, but 3000 remained as they were unsure of the future. With the new hostilities, the camp has grown to nearly 9000 and many thousands more women and children are poised on the border to come across at a moment’s notice once their husbands have finished harvest or the fighting gets more intense.
And there is no doubt there is fighting. You can hear gunfire from the ground war from the border and the bombing and air raids are even more evident.
As it stands now Sherkole is not accepting any new refugees unless it is for family reunification. Otherwise they are going to a new camp at Tonga nearby.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is managing the camp and with assistance from two or three other agencies are providing health and sanitation requirements, education up to grade eight, shelter and water. CLWR is looking to see where there may be gaps that we can fill and there are some.
High school education is only available in the town 16 kilometres away and there is need to provide transportation and increase the school size to accommodate students from the camp. There are a large number of unaccompanied youth in the camp who need an education.
Another area of assistance that would be helpful is in an area that CLWR has a lot of experience and that’s in providing fuel efficient stoves. Large areas of forest were cut down during the previous encampment and have been reforested and rehabilitated but now the fear is that the camp will again cause widespread environmental degradation.
These may seem like small things, but are a way that Canadian Lutherans can step in and make a significant difference in the lives of people who live for signs of hope.
Watch a video of Robert Granke, CLWR’s executive director, reflecting on the situation in Sherkole.