Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The United Nations Refugee Agency said Friday it needs immediate help assisting tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees who are fleeing into Sudan amid fighting in the breakaway Tigray region.
Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva Friday that more than 33,000 refugees have so far fled Ethiopia's Tigray region into a desolate location in Sudan.
Hundreds have died in fighting since Nov. 4 when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered air raids and attacks in Tigray. The Tigray People's Liberation Front said this week Ethiopian forces dropped bombs in and around Mekelle, the capital of the northern province.
Eritrea is also being drawn into the conflict.
"Many fled with nothing except what they had with them and then had to walk for hours and cross a river to seek safety in Sudan," Baloch said.
"Refugees are arriving in remote areas that have very little infrastructure. It takes at least six hours to reach Hamdayat from Kassala and to reach Village 8 -- another location temporarily hosting refugees."
Baloch said the United Nations has called on all parties to protect displaced civilians and respect the safety of humanitarian staff. They also asked for an immediate cease-fire so that humanitarian aid can reach refugees.
"Refugees have told us they were going about their daily lives when fighting erupted suddenly," Baloch added. "We have met teachers, nurses, office workers, farmers and students who were completely caught by surprise.
"Many fled with nothing except what they had with them and then had to walk for hours and cross a river to seek safety in Sudan."