700,000 people flee conflict to seek safety in Somali region of Ethiopia
Over 200,000 people fled ethnic conflict to camps in the Somali region of Ethiopia since July. This pushes the total to over 700,000 that fled inter-communal violence in recent years, according to the latest Displacement Tracking Matrixfor Ethiopia. Most came from the Oromia region. Overall nearly 1.1 million people are displaced in the Somali region when other causes such as drought and flood are included.
“Ethnic conflict along the Oromia – Somali provincial borders is forcing families to flee to overcrowded camps. Few aid groups are present, and more families arrive everyday while resources are overstretched. Elders tell us people are dying for lack of aid. These families need lifesaving aid, before it’s too late,” said Evelyn Aero, Regional Adviser the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“We fled the violence with only the clothes on our back,” said Abdirahman Moalim, a farmer who fled eastern Oromia last year. He is sheltering with his family in the overcrowded Koloji camp in Somali region, along with 65,000 other residents.
“We have a great problem on the health side. There’s been an outbreak of measles. Children have died from measles and malnutrition. And we have tuberculosis. 3 or 4 people can die every day,” Abdirahman continued.
In a welcome policy change, the new regional government of the Somali Region is asking for more aid agencies to enter the Somali region, and start up emergency programmes to respond to the crisis. This includes the Government facilitating and improving access for the aid agencies. Those agencies already working in the region are urged to expand their current relief programmes. While the Government, NRC and others provide aid to families, resources are not enough.
Planning is underway with the Government to resettle 5,000 displaced families into newly created communities in the Somali region. More aid is needed for shelter, water and other resources to make the resettlement communities a reality. A large number of these families will come from Koloji camp. Resettlement will help bring a permanent solution to those displaced by the crisis. While the Government begins the process of building permanent settlements, urgent life-saving assistance is needed in the camps.
“The violence in Ethiopia this year has gone on unnoticed by the international community. While the government finds longer term political and humanitarian solutions to the conflict, we urge donor governments to pay attention and increase funding. More must be done to save lives,” warnedEvelyn Aero of NRC.