‘We are the lucky ones’

Ethiopian refugee Mihret hid in the bush for days without food or water, to escape the Tigray conflict. Now safe in Sudan at the Tunaydbah refugee settlement, she is using her engineering skills to assist her community. 

© UNHCR / Ahmed Kwarte

 

Former lecturer and civil engineer Mihret recalls the day her world was turned upside. “It was like watching a documentary on television, except it happened in real life,” she says. 

“I thought I wouldn’t get out alive. I was really scared,” says Mihret, who was on campus when commotion and confusion engulfed her hometown.  

“When I left the office, I saw crowds everywhere. Everyone was running to save themselves and their children. The roads were filled with people pushing each other,” she adds. 

Mihret ran to her aunt’s house and waited for nightfall before making an escape. Together with her aunt and cousins, they hid in the bush for days without food or water as it was too dangerous to be out on the open road. They eventually made it across the border into Sudan after walking long distances over incredibly harsh terrain.

Like the other tens of thousands of Ethiopians who fled to Sudan, Mihret barely carried anything with her. But she counts herself lucky as she managed to escape with her life and has her younger brother, aunt and cousins with her in Tunaydbah. 

“We are the lucky ones,” she says. “So many people, our friends and our families died back there and on the way. I am happy we survived.” 

Since she arrived in the settlement, she has been struggling with the memories of the atrocities she witnessed which are still fresh in her mind.  

Sudan. Resourceful Ethiopian refugees start new lives in Sudanese camp

Mihret Gerezgiher, 25, from Ethiopia’s Tigray region, is a trained construction engineer and teacher who volunteers with UNHCR and partners in Sudan’s Tunaydbah camp. Photo: © UNHCR/Ahmed Kwarte

Sudan. Resourceful Ethiopian refugees start new lives in Sudanese camp

Mihret oversees construction and helps refugee mothers obtain medical treatment for themselves and their children. She left everything behind when she fled to safety and witnessed horrific violence on her journey. She longs for peace and a chance to return home. Photo: © UNHCR/Ahmed Kwarte

Sudan. Resourceful Ethiopian refugees start new lives in Sudanese camp

More than 62,000 people have fled the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region into Sudan where the Tunaydbah and Um Rakuba camps each host more than 20,000, mostly women, children and the elderly. UNHCR, the Sudanese government and humanitarian partners are providing assistance including registration, shelter, water and food. Photo: © UNHCR/Ahmed Kwarte

 

“Pregnant mothers gave birth and on the same day, they had to run away on foot,” she recalls. 

Mihret adds that she finds some solace through her work and is using her skills to volunteer as a site supervisor in the camp, working with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and other agencies like the International Humanitarian Partnership (IHP).  

On most days, Mihret is up by 6 am and works until 2 pm, checking the generators at the mobile office, the water tanks and general construction in the settlement. Later in the afternoons, she volunteers at the health clinic, helping refugee mothers get medical services for themselves and their children. 

“I do it because many in my community, especially the mothers, don’t understand the language here. They need help and I want to help them,” explains Mihret who speaks Arabic, the official language spoken in Sudan. 

“Now we know how important [peace] is because we have lost it.” 

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UNHCR is providing basic emergency services like food, shelter, healthcare, water and sanitation to refugees in the settlement, while also identifying ways to assist them set up businesses and earn some income. 

Your support matters. To support relief efforts, please donate today. 

For more information about the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia, please visit our Ethiopia country page. 

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