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Extreme weather leaves Ethiopian refugees vulnerable in eastern Sudan

Extreme weather leaves Ethiopian refugees vulnerable in eastern Sudan

As the rains begin in Sudan, UNHCR and partners race to shield refugees from the risk of flooding.

Anna* recalls how just a few days ago she would sigh with relief as she stepped out of the scorching heat into the welcoming shade of her tent in eastern Sudan’s Tunaydbah refugee settlement.

“The heat can be unbearable,” says the 21-year-old Ethiopian refugee who is now grappling with another problem – heavy rains.
Her struggle with the extreme weather is similar to that of thousands of Ethiopians who have arrived in eastern Sudan over the past six months, after fleeing violence in Tigray. Many brought very few belongings and after months of scorching heat, are now facing the long rains, which begin in May and last until October.
Rain and strong winds have already destroyed some shelters and latrines and resulted in flooding in some areas of the settlement, which hosts some 20,000 refugees.

The settlement, which is in a semi-arid area where temperatures can reach as high as 45°C, was set up in January this year to cope with the influx after another settlement, Um Rakuba reached its full capacity. The flat surrounding landscape, dotted with sparse bushes and rocky outcrops, is prone to flash floods that have become more severe in recent years.

Various studies, including by UN agencies, suggest this is due to changes in the climate that are resulting in increasingly unpredictable rainfall and rising temperatures across Sudan’s arid and semi-arid drylands. Climate change is being felt worldwide, but Sudan is among the countries that are most vulnerable and least ready to adapt to its effects, which it is experiencing while simultaneously struggling with conflict, poverty and high levels of displacement.

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