Displaced Eritreans returning home

MSF asked to assist with creation of returnee camps.

Since the end of the fighting with Ethiopia, Eritreans are returning to their homes in the villages or to their former camps. The UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) is reporting that the number of Eritrean refugees who are waiting for repatriation from Kassala, Sudan, is around 80,000.

The Sudanese government is eager to have these refugees leave, while the Eritrean government is eager to have the people back. Problem is that large portions of returnees will not be able to access their villages of origin since many have been destroyed by fighting or are to close to the front line.

UNHCR and the ERREC (Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission) have proposed the creation of three returnee camps in Gash Barka. Both asked MSF to be an implementing partner in creating and operating these camps.

MSF is willing to be involved but has requested sufficient time be allowed to set up a satisfactory infrastructure of these camps. A team went out last week to evaluate the needs and explore the sites.

The population of the Salina camp (former Debarwa) dropped from 67,000 people to almost none. In Salina as well in Alba Camp MSF did a safe motherhood programme, measles vaccinations and water and sanitation activities.