SitRep 27 September 2011: Refugees Flee Sudan's Blue Nile State

Harvard Humanitarian Initiative prepared this situation report for the Satellite Sentinel Project.


On 27 September 2011, The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a revised estimate of the number of refugees that have crossed from Sudan’s Blue Nile State into Ethiopia. On 15 September, UNHCR estimated 15,000 people had arrived in Ethiopia. UNHCR now estimates that 25,000 Sudanese have sought refuge in western Ethiopia since Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Government of Sudan-aligned soldiers attacked Damazin on 2 September 2011. UNHCR, UNICEF, the World Food Program and the International Organization for Migration offered an appeal for $18.3 million to provide aid funds for up to 35,000 refugees in Ethiopia.

Satellite Sentinel Project (SSP) issued a human security warning in its report, released 23 September, for Kurmuk.  SSP provided satellite evidence of an impending SAF attack on Kurmuk, which may result in the use of indiscriminate and disproportionate force. Kurmuk is a main border point for refugees crossing into western Ethiopia. Since 21 September, increased air strikes throughout Blue Nile, including Kurmuk, have resulted in a surge of refugee movement into Ethiopia. On 23 September alone, the day SSP issued a human security warning, 1,500 refugees crossed the Kurmuk border into Ethiopia.

Many of the refugees are seeking shelter in villages close to the border checkpoint, although this still presents dangers because the aerial bombings are occurring close by. 3,500 refugees have been relocated to the Sherkole camp, 50 km/31m southeast of Kurmuk. The Ethiopian government is also constructing two transit centers near the main border points of Kurmuk and Gizan.  These centers will provide assistance to 10,000 people.[1]

Despite claims made on 20 September by Deputy Governor of Blue Nile Adam Ismael Abakar that there are no longer IDP camps in Blue Nile as a result of SAF spreading stability[2], the latest United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) situation report contradicts this statement. The report, which covers the period from 16 to 23 September, presents information provided by the Sudanese Red Crescent Society (SRCS). According to SRCS, Government of Sudan-controlled areas of Tadamon and Baw contain about 25,000 IDPs. In Sudanese People’s Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) controlled areas, 11,000 people from the western part of Kurmuk have been displaced to southern Blue Nile, close to the South Sudan border. Additionally, UNHCR reports 4,000 people are seeking refuge in Upper Nile State, South Sudan.[3]


[1] “Thousands more flee air strikes in Sudan’s Blue Nile State.” UNHCR. 27 Sept 2011.

[2] “Al Bashir Appoints Al-Hadi Bushra as Blue Nile Governor.” Sudan Vision. 20 Sept 2011.

[3] “South Kordofan and Blue Nile Situation Report No. 20.” OCHA. 16 to 23 Sept 2011.