FILE PHOTO Refugees stand on the Ethiopian bank of a river that separates Sudan from Ethiopia near the Hamdeyat refugees transit camp, which houses Ethiopian refugees fleeing the fighting in the Tigray region, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border, Sudan, November 30, 2020 REUTERS
More than 16,000 Ethiopian refugees living in camps in eastern Sudan have had their shelters damaged by storms, the United Nations said Tuesday.
Several weeks of strong winds, heavy rains, and hailstorms have razed tents, swept away belongings and destroyed infrastructure in the settlements of Um Raquba and Tunaydbah, said UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
The storms began in late May, and are expected to intensify further during the rainy season, which runs from June to October, UNHCR spokesman Boris Cheshirkov told reporters Geneva.
The agency is in a race against time to repair and reinforce the shelters, and ensure that affected families have access to clean water and functioning latrines.
"Nearly 4,000 out of 10,000 individual family tents have been damaged," Cheshirkov said.
"We are replacing blankets and sleeping mats and replenishing food supplies. Distributions of 2,500 emergency shelter kits -- ropes, wooden poles, and bamboo sticks -- are under way to help those most impacted to reinforce their tents.
"A total of 10,000 emergency shelters kits are planned for distribution with an additional 5,000 in reserve."
UNHCR is working on building and maintaining some 60 kilometres (40 miles) of roads to both camps to ensure access to them and around 15 host community villages throughout the rainy season.
Drainage systems are being dug at the two settlements to mitigate the risk of further flooding.
More permanent shelters called tukuls -- small round huts made from mud bricks and thatch, typical of the region -- are planned.
"But we can only start building them after the rainy season is over, when the bricks will be able to dry properly," said Cheshirkov.
Last year, heavy seasonal rains affected hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people and refugees in Sudan.
UNHCR is calling for $182 million to meet the protection and basic needs of the Ethiopian refugees until the end of the year.
So far, 46 percent of the required amount has been received.