Sudan: Digital Press Briefing with Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Assistant Secretary of State, Julieta Valls Noyes

Sudanese refugees in Iridimi Camp in Chad (file photo)
press conference

Digital press briefing with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Assistant Secretary of State, Julieta Valls Noyes. Assistant Secretary Noyes discussed her meetings with senior government officials, humanitarian leaders, and refugees in Ethiopia and Chad on the growing humanitarian and migration challenges in both central and eastern Africa.

MODERATOR:  Good afternoon to everyone from the U.S. Department of State's Africa Regional Media Hub.  I welcome our participants logging in from across the continent and thank all of you for joining this discussion on the topic: U.S. Official Travel to Ethiopia and Chad/The Growing Humanitarian and Migration Challenges in Central and Eastern Africa.

Today, we are very pleased to be joined by the U.S. Department of State's Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Julieta Valls Noyes.  Assistant Secretary Noyes will discuss her meetings with senior government officials, humanitarian leaders, and refugees in Ethiopia and Chad on the growing humanitarian and migration challenges in both Central and Eastern Africa.

We will begin today's briefing with opening remarks from Assistant Secretary Noyes and then we will turn to your questions.  We will try to get to as many of them as we can during the briefing.

With that, I would like to turn it over to Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, Julieta Valls Noyes, for her opening remarks.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  Thank you, Johann, and thanks to all the journalists joining us today.  I'm pleased to be with you to speak about my visit last week to Ethiopia and Chad.  As Johann mentioned, during my trip, I met with senior government officials, humanitarian leaders and partners, and refugees in both countries.  I focused on the growing humanitarian and migration challenges in both Central and Eastern Africa.

So to that end, I was proud to announce in my meeting with Chad's Prime Minister Masra more than 47 million in humanitarian assistance for the emergency response in Sudan and neighboring countries, including Chad and South Sudan.  That amount of money brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for people in Sudan and neighboring countries to more than $968 million since last fiscal year.  The United States is the leading humanitarian donor to the Sudan emergency response.  Now, we are committed to working with other members of the international community to help alleviate the suffering of over 1 million refugees forced to flee their homes due to violence, with more arriving daily, as I saw during my visit.

Both Ethiopia and Chad are regional leaders, playing essential roles in the Sudan response and broader humanitarian efforts.  Since early 2023, Ethiopia has welcomed nearly 50,000 refugees from Sudan.  At a time of great instability in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia's support for displaced populations remains absolutely critical.

While I was in Ethiopia, I met with senior government officials to discuss the humanitarian response to the crisis in Sudan.  The Government of Ethiopia has worked closely with humanitarian actors to establish new refugee sites and provide essential, life-saving aid to the tens of thousands of new refugee arrivals.  Their support for the Sudanese people escaping violence in their country is invaluable.

During my visit, I also visited an urban refugee center in Addis Ababa, operated by PRM partner Jesuit Refugee Services, where I spoke with refugees in the center's classrooms and recreational facilities.  Sites like that one provide opportunities, particularly for young refugees, to learn English, gain vocational skills, and express themselves through art and music.  This support, made possible through U.S. and other international donor contributions, advances refugee resilience and helps new arrivals integrate into their new communities.

From there I went to Chad.  Now, I want to stress the U.S. – the United States' deep appreciation for the generosity of the people and the Government of Chad throughout their long history as a refugee host country.  Most recently, Chad has embraced the immense challenge of welcoming over half a million refugees – and over 100,000 returnees – in less than a year.

We remain steadfastly committed to supporting vulnerable people in Chad, in particular the over 1.1 million refugees and asylum seekers.  U.S.-supported programs, made possible by the more than $47 million that I announced – $18 million of which will go to programs in Chad – those programs will support – those funds will support protection, shelter, water and sanitation, education, and more, for refugees, host communities, and others affected by the crisis in Sudan.

Now, one unique feature of the Sudan emergency is that women and children represent some 90 percent of the more than 550,000 refugees who have arrived in Chad since the beginning of the Sudan conflict in April of last year.  To address the long-lasting impact of mental health distress experienced by gender-based violence survivors, our partners in Chad are working to integrate mental health support throughout their programs, but resources are very limited, and the needs are overwhelming.  I was personally devastated to hear from so many survivors of gender-based violence who remain profoundly traumatized by their experiences.

As the conflict in Sudan shows little sign of abating, the United States will continue to prioritize the needs of Sudanese refugees across the region, particularly in Chad, where the burden is especially acute and the host government is struggling to meet the basic needs of its own citizens.  Now, no one country or organization can meet these historic needs alone.  In Chad, I called on other donors to help alleviate the suffering of the Sudanese people and over 1 million refugees forced to leave their homes due to violence and the communities that host them.

The United States also calls on all parties to the Sudan conflict to end hostilities immediately.  We urge all parties to find a peaceful resolution that promotes the safety and resilience of impacted communities and allows for the return of forcibly displaced individuals and families.  Meanwhile, we also call for unhindered humanitarian access, including both cross-line and cross-border access from multiple points of entry to the most devastated areas in Sudan.

So just in closing before we get to your questions, I want to reiterate our gratitude to the governments and people of Chad and Ethiopia for their leadership as they continue to welcome refugees fleeing violence in Sudan and beyond.  Specific to the Sudan emergency, preventing famine and long-term catastrophe will require both a ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access.  We in the United States are committed to work with the governments of Ethiopia and Chad, and with international and local partners, to provide life-saving support to the millions of people affected by the devastating conflict in Sudan.

And with that, Johann, thank you very much.  That concludes my opening statement, and I'm happy to turn to questions.

MODERATOR:  Well, thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Noyes.  We will now begin the question-and-answer portion of today's briefing.  We do ask that you limit yourself to one question only and that it be related to the topic of today's briefing, which is:  The Growing Humanitarian and Migration Challenges in Central and Eastern Africa.

So we do have a first question today submitted by a freelance journalist in South Sudan named Mr. Richard Sultan, and Mr. Sultan asks:  "What is the difference in the immediate needs of the refugees in Chad to those in Ethiopia?"  Interesting question.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  Thanks.  Thank you, Mr. Sultan, for that question.  Well, both countries have been enormously generous and the people of both countries have been enormously generous for a long time in receiving and supporting refugees.  But the responses are different and the situation in both countries are different.

Ethiopia has hosted for years refugees from a broad range of countries – Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Syria.  I met refugees from all of those countries while I was in Ethiopia.  Ethiopia currently hosts about 1 million refugees and 4 million internally displaced persons.  The Government of Ethiopia has received – or Ethiopia has received about 50,000 Sudanese refugees over the past year who have been added to those who are already in the country.  Ethiopia is a country with greater resources of its own that it can devote to these efforts.

Meanwhile, Chad is a country that – where one in three people require support for their own survival, and that's Chadian nationals.  And they have received, as I mentioned earlier, about 560,000 refugees over the past year, plus over 100,000 returnees, and that's to a country that is dealing with a great deal of internal poverty.  In fact, in my meeting with the prime minister, Prime Minister Masra, he told me something that I'm going to carry with me a long time.  He said that in the country of Chad they are dealing with shared poverty and shared – let me – I wrote it down, and now I'm blanking out as I'm speaking to you.  But it was shared poverty – let me come back to that, because I'm blanking out on the phrase now, even though I mentioned that I will – that it is staying with me.

Anyway, sorry.  Chad is incredibly generous and is – but a country of great poverty and great needs, and there the response is primarily focused on what's been happening in Sudan over the past year.  And the issue with the Sudan situation is that as the crisis and the conflict continue, everyone expects more refugees to arrive in Chad.  So the needs – there are real needs in both countries.  There are welcoming governments and peoples in both countries.  But the populations of refugees in both countries are different, and the ways that they are responding are different.

So I'm going to check my notes here to go back to what the prime minister said.  Oh, I've got it.  It was shared poverty and shared humanity.  And I thought that that was an excellent way of describing how both Chad and, for that matter, Ethiopia are responding to their respective refugee situations.  So thanks, Mr. Sultan.  And sorry for that mental lapse as I was trying to recall the prime minister's statement.  I'm still a little jet lagged.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you very much, Assistant Secretary.  So I see that we do have a hand up from Pearl Matibe of Premium Times in Nigeria.  Pearl, would you like to – you've put your question into the Q&A box, and I appreciate that, but would you like to ask your question live if we open your mic?

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  I really do appreciate the opportunity and, Assistant Secretary Noyes, your availability.  It's really concerning what's happening in Chad.  In fact, I met the prime minister when he was here in Washington just recently.

So my question to you is this:  Considering Chad's recent efforts to enhance its development and stability, including prime minister's recent visit to the U.S.A., how do you see Chad's potential for leapfrogging in terms of – I know he was concerned.  He wants economic growth, regional security, as well as this humanitarian response, so doing these things in parallel to the refugee crisis in Sudan.  Given the interplay between migration flows from Sudan and the security challenges posed by terrorism in Chad – because how do we know how the people have been filtered with – so to avoid any terrorism flows into Chad?  What role can the international community play in supporting Chad's aspirations for progress and stability?  I know those were key concerns of the prime minister, Dr. Succès.  If you could address that, I'd really appreciate it.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  Thanks, Ms. Matibe.  That's a really interesting question and one that I can respond to in part.  In terms of the specific issues related to Chad's development and stability, I would defer to my colleagues in the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the Department of Commerce and Treasury and the DFC.  However, it is also clear that as Chad works to meet the needs – and works with partners to meet the needs – of refugees and its own people in this terrible conflict and at this very, very difficult moment, it is clear that international sources of humanitarian assistance are not sufficient to meet all of the needs.  We're seeing this situation all over the world, where humanitarian resources are simply not keeping pace with humanitarian needs.

And so we are taking a long, hard look at the international infrastructure for dealing with humanitarian needs and coming up with innovative new solutions that involve bringing together humanitarian assistance funding and development funding, working with partners like the World Bank – indeed, I met with the World Bank director in Chad when I was there – and looking for more work in the space of the peace-development nexus and in the space of sort of relief and development coherence.  We're putting together the humanitarian dollars, but planning for what is likely to be not a quick emergency response but a prolonged response, where many of those people are likely to be in Chad for years.  Indeed, I met when I was there with some refugees who had arrived from Darfur in 2004 and who are still there.

So it's clear that the international community and the international humanitarian infrastructure need to pivot and find new ways of working and finding ways to combine humanitarian and development initiatives and funding in ways that can deal with issues, to meet the emergency needs, but also to provide prolonged support for communities that are likely to be there for a long time, as well as for the host communities where they are living.

And so this is a space where we see a lot of potential.  It is an area of growing focus for the World Bank, the multilateral development banks, frankly, the private sector.  We're looking at some issues like innovative financing for things like energy projects.  We're doing a lot of work on this in this space in Kenya.  So I think that the potential for these new partnerships in the humanitarian space can also create opportunities for development along the lines of what you were talking about.  And all of this, of course, would also contribute to stability.  So I thank you for the question.

MODERATOR:  All right.  Thank you very much for that answer.  We have another hand raised from Emmanuel Igunza, a freelance journalist for NPR Radio.  Emmanuel, would you like to ask your question live?

QUESTION:  Yeah.  Thank you very much.  I just want to ask, in your engagement with the Ethiopian Government, did you raise the issue about their own thousand – tens of thousands of people who have been displaced within the country due to the conflicts in Oromia and in Amhara regions?  Because the criticism of particularly the U.S. has been that it is not quite strong in trying to deal with the government in addressing these issues.  Thank you very much.

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  I had wide-ranging discussions with Ethiopian officials about a variety of humanitarian issues.  It was – because my trip was broadly focused on the Sudan response, that was the primary focus of our discussions.  But we also talked about how the United States remains the largest donor of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia for a variety of populations, including internally displaced persons.  And in fact, we provided over a billion dollars last fiscal year and nearly $89 million to date this fiscal year to provide life-saving support for refugees, asylum seekers, the internally displaced people that you're asking about, stateless persons, and others who are affected by conflict, drought, food instability.

So I hope that answers your question.  Thank you, Mr. Igunza.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you.  So switching gears a little bit, we have a question from Mr. Aggrey Mutambo of The EastAfrican in Kenya.  And his question is:  "Could you speak generally about how the U.S. Government is helping countries in the East African region address the problem of labor migration, especially to Gulf countries?"

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  Sure, that's a – it's a great question.  It was something we had a lot of conversations about, so thanks, Mr. Mutambo, for that question.

Look, the U.S. policy is to support safe, orderly, and humane migration and the opportunities that it provides globally.  That is our global position.  In Africa in particular, PRM, the bureau that I lead, funds the Africa Regional Migration Program, and we also fund the International Organization for Migration and its regional migration response plan.  Beyond that funding that is supportive of the labor migration – lawful, safe, humane labor migration – we facilitate dialogue between countries related to migration and to facilitate discussions about migrants who wish to return home from countries where they have been living.  And in particular, we have been doing that for migrants wishing to return home from Yemen or Djibouti.

So it is an area where we are engaging, and it is an area of growing interest in this region, but as I'm sure all of you are following all over the world, these are issues of interest all over the world.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  All right.  I think we might have time for just one more question.  And so there was a question submitted by Ms. Lucia Blanco of the EFE Spanish News Agency based in Kenya.  And her question is:  "One year after the war started in Sudan, what is the situation of the refugees that arrive in Chad?  What is the displacement situation in the country related to the conflict in Oromo and Amhara?  And what did authorities tell you about those conflicts?"

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  Okay, so let me start with Chad.  The situation of refugees arriving to Chad is devastating.  They are arriving with almost nothing but the clothes that they are wearing.  They are arriving after having been victimized on the route.  They are arriving with immense needs and profound trauma; many, many of them survivors of gender-based violence, sexual violence.  As I mentioned earlier, 90 percent of them women and children with profound needs and very few resources of their own.  Moreover, I met with refugees while I was there who had arrived in 2004 fleeing from the situation in Darfur, and they unanimously said that as terrible as the situation that they had lived was, the situation of refugees arriving today is much worse.

So it is a profound challenge.  It is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world right now, and it is a crisis that requires a response by many countries, many organizations to help support the people and the Government of Chad as they try to deal with this immense challenge with a great deal of humanity.

Ethiopia, as I mentioned earlier, has a different set of issues.  It has refugees from I believe 27 other countries currently living in Ethiopia, and as I mentioned earlier, Eritrea, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, and many others.  They have also received Sudanese refugees, but nowhere near the scale or the number of those who have been arriving to Chad.

But in Ethiopia, the issue remains – the larger humanitarian issues – remains the issue of internally displaced persons, including those from Amhara and Oromo.  And we did talk about those situations while I was there, and I was proud to reinforce U.S. support for all vulnerable people, including with the funding that we are providing across the humanitarian needs in Ethiopia, which are different from those in Chad but which the United States is proud to support and which, like the situation in Chad, also requires support and contributions from other governments, other organizations, and new and innovative solutions like working in this peace development nexus space, getting the participation of the World Bank or the private sector.

So there is more than enough work to do to meet all of the needs in both countries, and it was – I was grateful to have the opportunity to visit both countries and to see the response, and to thank the governments of both countries.  But I have to say I've returned a bit traumatized myself by the suffering that I witnessed while I was there, and hopeful of being able to do more and to persuade my partners in other countries to do more to respond more forcefully or at greater scale to meet the scale of the needs.  Thanks.

MODERATOR:  All right, thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Noyes.  Do you have any final thoughts or words to share with the group?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY NOYES:  I just want to thank everyone for their attention.  I want to thank you for all that you (inaudible) you do to publicize these (inaudible) and the more that we can all do to bring the attention of the world (inaudible) that we'll be able to find the support needed to meet them.  So I thank you for your work and for your attention and humanity.  And my apologies, again, for my jetlag and my memory lapse earlier in thinking about the statement.  But I think I'd like to close with the statement from the Chadian prime minister that this is a situation that truly is one of shared poverty and shared humanity.  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Well, thank you very much, Assistant Secretary Noyes.  You've been very generous with your time, and we do understand that you just returned from that very important trip.

So that concludes today's briefing.  I'd like to thank the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration Assistant Secretary of State Julieta Valls Noyes for joining us.  Thank you to all the journalists for participating.  A recording and transcript of today's briefing will be distributed to participating journalists as soon as we can produce them.  If you have any questions about today's briefing, you may contact the Africa Regional Media Hub at

I would also like to invite everyone to follow us on Twitter at our handle @AfricaMediaHub.  Thank you very much.

AllAfrica publishes around 500 reports a day from more than 100 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.