Dakar- Senegal (PANA) -- More than 28,700 Sudanese refugees are caught in a tense situation in Ethiopia as security concerns prevent relief agencies from sending staff into Fugnido camp, where 41 refugees were killed in ethnic clashes recently.
Since the spate of attacks started on 25 November, UNHCR staff and other aid workers have been ordered to keep clear of Fugnido camp in southwestern Ethiopia.
The camp is home to over 28,700 refugees and is the largest of five refugee settlements in Ethiopia's Gambella region, which hosts a total of 85,000 Sudanese refugees.
Calling for more security in the area, UNHCR spokesman Kris Janowski said in a press briefing in Geneva Tuesday, "The clashes in Fugnido highlight the need for ARRA (the Ethiopian Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs) and the Ethiopian government to ensure the basic principles of refugee protection and monitoring.
" Last week the Ethiopian government sent senior officials and ARRA staff into Fugnido to meet the refugees and try to calm the situation.
The authorities have also reinforced Ethiopian troops based in the area, who are patrolling the camp.
But the situation remains tense.
Over 200 terrified refugees have fled Fugnido and sought refuge in a compound housing the offices of UNHCR and ARRA, just outside the camp.
Their huts have reportedly been looted in their absence.
Fugnido's schools have also been looted of furniture and other materials, with losses totalling more than $11,600, according to Save the Children, a non-governmental organisation that oversees education in the camp.
So far, 46 children have been identified as having lost one or both parents in the recent clashes.
In one particular attack, 33 Sudanese refugees -- including 18 women, one of whom was heavily pregnant -- were killed when refugees from the Anuak tribe, armed with AK-47 rifles, descended on a group of ethnic Dinkas.
Tensions in the camp have been linked to tribal and political conflicts among the host community in this remote corner of Ethiopia.
The refugees' affiliations with various factions of the anti- Khartoum Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) are also said to be fuelling the dispute.