The UN World Food Program (WFP) said Saturday more than 12,000 Eritrean refugees fleeing violence have entered Sudan within the past four days and the figure is rapidly rising.
Lindsey Davies, WFP's spokesman in Nairobi told AFP that a joint assessment team from Sudan, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), WFP and International Federation of the Red Cross/Sudan Red Crescent (IFRC/SRC) went to two among three border crossings on Friday to determine conditions and numbers of Eritrean refugees flooding into Sudan.
The refugee movements have been triggered by a flare-up in the bloody border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
At the border crossing at Laffa, 35 kilometers (21 miles) south of Kassala, the team witnessed between 5,000 and 7,000 refugees, mostly women and children, who had arrived in the past few days. Many more were still streaming in on foot, by donkey and on trucks, carrying all their belongings.
"It was evident from what the assessment team saw at Laffa that more refugees were on their way to Sudan and that the numbers would certainly rise," Davies told AFP by telephone.
Davies said the team also visited a second border crossing at Gulfa, 30 kilometers (18 miles) southeast of Kassala, where a health clinic had already been set up to receive the refugees.
There, some 3,750 refugees, most of them women and children, had already arrived and were crammed into a primary school, where sanitary conditions were deteriorating.
They looked tired and badly in great need of food, shelter and water.
The assessment team was informed during the border visit that refugees were also coming in through the third border crossing at Awad, where approximately 2,500 had already entered since Wednesday.
The refugees told aid workers that they had come from Eritrea's Teseney district and that they were running away from encroaching fighting, but had not directly witnessed any combat.
"WFP was already in the process of pre-positioning 4,250 tones of food for the repatriation of Eritrean refugees from Sudan, but this food could now be used to feed the new influx of refugees," Davis said.
According to a report by the Sudanese newspaper, Akhbar Al-Youm daily, the number of Eritrean refugees fleeing into Sudan had reached 85,000 by Friday with the influx continuing at a rate of 100-150 per hour -- NAIROBI (AFP)
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