The Plight of Ethiopia’s Internally Displaced Persons

A woman drags by a limp leg the carcass of one of her few remaining prized black-headed sheep away from her family’s domed shelter fashioned out of sticks and fabric that stands alone amid the desiccated scrubland.

Across Somali Region of Ethiopia, there are 264 sites containing around 577,711 internally displaced persons (IDPs) according to a survey conducted by IOM between May and June 2017.

By James Jeffrey | Africa Business Magazine

“Once they are all dead we will go to one of the settlements,” says the Somali-Ethiopian pastoralist who is dealing with the fallout of the latest drought afflicting the Horn of Africa. Last year, Ethiopia’s highland region was affected.

This year, the lowland Somali region in the southeast has been hit, devastating the herds of the pastoralists who live there. Across the region, whose ethnically Somali inhabitants are Ethiopian nationals, there are 264 sites containing around 577,711 internally displaced persons – also known as IDPs – according to a survey conducted by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) between May and June 2017.

Most of them have spent all their reserves trying to keep their few remaining animals alive and are left with nothing. “For those who have lost everything, all they can now do is go to a government assistance site for food and water,” says Charlie Mason, humanitarian director at Save the Children Ethiopia until June this year. “They have no coping mechanisms left.”

But the scale of numbers means the government is overwhelmed – many sites have reported no access to food – hence international assistance is sorely needed. However, international aid is often more geared toward those who crossed international borders.

Lack of attention

“Refugees get global attention – the issue has been around a long time, and it’s just how people look at it, especially if conflict is involved,” says Hamidu Jalleh, working for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the region. “Weather-induced IDPs haven’t reached that level.”

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