UNITED NATIONS, New York / UM RAQUBA, Sudan – More than 33,000 people have fled to eastern Sudan from the ongoing conflict in the Ethiopian region of Tigray, according to United Nations officials. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has begun relocating refugees from transit centers to a displaced settlement in Um Raqubi, where UNFPA is working with partners to provide critical services.
Most of the displaced refugees are women and children.
“I saw men slaughtering me in front of my eyes. I can’t forget that, ”one young woman told UNFPA officials in Um Raquba during a needs assessment.
“I ran away from home when the shooting started. I still don’t know where my father and brothers are. “
Fear, trauma, sexual violence
Many women and girls are afraid of their safety. Sensitivity to gender-based violence often increases during humanitarian crises.
“When I left, I ran away with seven children. For four nights we traveled on foot through the bushes and woods. We hid during the day, “a 37-year-old refugee told UNFPA. “I have two daughters, 20 and 18 years old. I can’t sleep soundly because I have anxiety about my daughters ’safety. “
In addition, refugees lack safe toilets and private showers. Women and girls resorted to hiking from the settlement to relieve themselves in the open, exposing them to potential violence.
UNFPA and partners intervene to prevent and respond to gender-based violence. Psychological counseling on first aid and trauma is urgently needed. UNFPA is working with UNHCR to integrate these services into programs for survivors of gender-based violence.
Reproductive health needs are not met
Women’s reproductive health needs are also dangerously unmet. The nearest referral health facility that can provide post-rape treatment or emergency obstetric care is about 40 minutes away from Um Raquba.
“One woman lost a child after nine months of pregnancy due to lack of services,” said Massimo Diana, the UNFPA representative in Sudan. The woman arrived at the health center too late to be able to give birth safely.
“No woman should go through this, and we are working to ensure the availability of life-saving services,” he added.
UNFPA estimates that more than 700 of the newly arrived refugees in Sudan are likely to be pregnant, and more than 150 have survived gender-based violence that needs help.
It is estimated that more than 7,500 refugees are women of reproductive age.
“The first day I arrived at this camp, my period started,” a 26-year-old refugee told UNFPA. “One day I was left wearing dirty, bloody clothes. Then I sold my only valuable one – my Android phone – to buy underwear, cotton and soap to deal with menstruation. “
UNFPA is working to establish safe spaces for these women and girls, where they can find psychosocial support and referrals for health and other services.
With partners, UNFPA also works on the distribution of dignity items that contain hygiene items such as sanitary napkins, clothing, soap, underwear and other supplies.
UNFPA also offers clean delivery kits, which contain basic supplies to facilitate a safe birth, including an antiseptic cream, a umbilical cord razor, a sterile sheet for a woman, and a blanket to warm the baby. More comprehensive emergency reproductive health kits are available to healthcare professionals and on-site clinics.
But extra help is needed.
Partners, including the UN refugee agency, estimate that the number of refugees could increase to 200,000 in the next six months.
“Given that many more people are expected to cross the border, additional support will be crucial to meeting growing needs,” said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. “I call on all parties to provide a humanitarian approach so that women and families can get the help they need.”