A hostile climate, conflict, and disease outbreaks have resulted in a major humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. More than 2 million people fled the violence in the Somali and Oromia regions with an additional 500 000 people internally displaced due to floods and drought. Meanwhile, the number of refugees is rising. EU humanitarian aid funds life-saving interventions by providing emergency shelters, access to clean drinking water, food, and essential emergency relief items.
With around 100 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa. It spans different climatic zones and has a multitude of ethnic groups. Amid a climate of political reform, violent inter-ethnic clashes have resulted in massive displacement with 2 million people having fled the Oromiya–Somali regions conflict and the West Guji–Gedeo conflict. Meanwhile, more than half a million people are displaced due to floods and drought while the influx of refugees from South Sudan and Eritrea continues.
As the country recovers from two successive droughts, an estimated 7.8 million people are in need of emergency food assistance, in addition to the 7.9 million who are considered chronically vulnerable. Growing ethnic violence is currently the biggest driver of displacement. There is a high risk of disease outbreaks, and providing education for internally displaced children is becoming urgent.
With 928 000 refugees, Ethiopia is the second largest refugee hosting country in Africa. Malnutrition, lack of access to safe water and healthcare, and gender-based violence are among the biggest concerns with regard to the refugee population.
The European Union allocated €91.5 million for the humanitarian response in Ethiopia in 2017. The focus is on addressing the most urgent needs resulting from climate-related emergencies, the influx of refugees and conflict-related internal displacement. Following heavy floods and landslides in May 2018, which affected more than 320 000 people in the Somali region, the European Commission allocated €2 million to provide emergency shelter, clean drinking water and essential items such as mosquito nets and blankets.
The response to the drought and conflict-related displacement has centred on life-saving interventions such as the emergency supply of safe water (through water trucking and water source rehabilitation), and sanitation and hygiene promotion. In addition, the humanitarian response included the distribution of cash and food assistance, the detection and treatment of malnourished children and mothers, prevention and treatment of cholera outbreaks and other epidemics, and the distribution of essential items such as jerry cans, plastic sheets and other household goods to displaced families.
The response to internal displacement is informed by data collected through the EU-funded displacement tracking matrix (DTM) led by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). This tool has made it easier to identify the needs of displaced people and assist them in a more timely and efficient manner. EU funding has also supported IOM in the screening and referral of Ethiopian deportees from Saudi Arabia.
Due to the mass influx of South Sudanese refugees, now totalling 446 000, EU humanitarian aid has mostly concentrated on ensuring that refugees have shelter and access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Creating a protective environment for the most vulnerable refugees is also a priority. This is done by identifying those with special needs such as unaccompanied minors and people with disabilities and making sure that they are safe and adequately catered for. The EU also funds food assistance, including e-vouchers that refugees can exchange for fresh food at markets to complement their diet. EU funding also goes towards the detection and treatment of acutely malnourished children and pregnant or nursing women.
Finally, education in emergencies is provided by supporting primary schooling for refugees and for out-of-school displaced children. In the more established camps, with refugees who have been in Ethiopia longer, there is ongoing support to ensure basic needs and services are covered.