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Ethiopia: over 1,500 Sudanese refugees exchange news with relatives

By International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
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GENEVA, Switzerland, December 15, 2011/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- Over 1,500 Sudanese refugees in western Ethiopia have spoken with their families by mobile phone thanks to a service set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in early November. Many of the refugees in Ademazin, Sherkole and Tongo camps had been without news of their relatives since they fled the conflict in Blue Nile state in Sudan several weeks ago.

"Two months ago I fled my village, leaving behind my son, after witnessing the deaths of my neighbours. Since then I had been extremely worried about my son, but now I am relieved," said Dewane Sebit Ahmed, a refugee in the camp. "My son is alive and I was able to talk to him."

The mobile phone service for refugees is run jointly by the ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross Society. Each refugee arriving in the camps is given the opportunity to make a phone call to an immediate family member or another close relative in Sudan or anywhere in the world. The calls last up to two minutes and are limited to family and personal news only.

"Not knowing how relatives at home are coping is hard for the refugees to bear," said Micha Wedekind, the ICRC delegate in charge of the service. "The quickest and most efficient way to ease their anxiety in this very difficult situation is to help them call home."

The ICRC has been working in Ethiopia since 1977. One of its main activities in the country is to restore contact between close relatives, especially those divided by the closed Eritrea-Ethiopia border and Sudanese refugees separated from other members of their families.