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Sombre Christmas celebration for Ethiopian refugees in Sudan

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For thousands of Ethiopians who have fled fighting in the Tigray region to Sudan, this year’s Coptic Christmas on January 7 is a sombre celebration.

There will be little feasting for those living hand-to-mouth in the crowded Um Raquba refugee camp.

Wednesday January 6th is the Christmas Eve for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians.

Prices of basic goods soared in the dusty marketplace near the camp as people scrambled to buy food to celebrate.

“We come to Umm Raquba market to buy our needs for Christmas, such as lamb, sugar or coffee. Christmas is approaching. I just want to buy some lamb, sugar and milk — or anything. There is a difference in the prices. Here it is more expensive (than in Hamra, Sudan), such as the lamb, while in Hamra it is cheap”, an Ethiopian refugee told AFP.

“To purchase a sheep or poultry, it is very expensive, same for all the goods. This is for six people to share”, Tesfay Macho, an Ethiopian refugee said.

Patrons have come to this makeshift market to pick one need or the other. The refugees have become separated from relatives as they escaped the embattled Tigray region.

“This market opened more than a month ago and we have been here for a week. Work is good and we are selling everything. It is a festive season now for Ethiopians, so the demand has grown, and this is a great market, where they are able to make their purchases without facing any problems, like normal citizens”, Sudanese merchant Mahmoud Abdelrahman said.

Demand is high. The sprawling camp is already close to capacity. Refugees are continuing to flee the unrest in Tigray, as 800 people crossed into Sudan since the New Year, according to the United Nations.