OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
In 2018, Ethiopia was spared significant climate-related calamities such as the droughts of previous years. However, the significant spike in conflict-induced displacement, with a near doubling of the IDP and IDP returnee1 caseload, is contributing to high response needs across six regions. In addition, communities affected by drought in recent years have yet to recover and remain highly vulnerable to climate shocks, having exhausted their capacity to cope. This has required the Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners to adopt response strategies that are better suited to the need of a more complex and sudden onset conflict-induced crisis.
Ethiopia saw a significant increase in internal displacement in 2018 as a result of inter-communal conflict in several pockets of the country, with a near doubling of the IDP and IDP returnee population to around three million by the end of 2018. Though localized small-scale displacements have always existed in Ethiopia from clashes between communities over pasture and water rights in pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas along regional boundaries, the scale and frequency seen in 2018 are unprecedented. This led the Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian partners to focus more on the needs of IDPs and IDP returnees, while simultaneously responding to the acute needs of impoverished communities affected by food and livelihood insecurity from recent years of protracted drought, as well as other associated multi-sector needs.
One of the largest incidents of internal-displacement occurred in April 2018 when historical tensions over land and regional boundaries between the Gedeos (SNNP) and Oromos (Oromia) escalated, leading to clashes. At the peak of the crisis, nearly one million people were displaced in both zones. Another wave of displacement occurred when inter-communal conflict erupted along the Benishangul Gumuz - Oromia border in September 2018, displacing people inside Benishangul Gumuz region and across the border into western Oromia. Meanwhile in Amhara region, inter-communal related conflict that sparked in November 2018 between the Amhara and the Qemant communities led to displacements in the western part of the region. Parts of the Oromia-Somali, as well as Afar-Oromia regional boundaries remain volatile, while in Tigray region, conflict also led to some displacement in late 2018. Continued humanitarian assistance will be required in 2019 both for IDPs and IDP returnees. The implication for protection issues suggests that the capacity of the Government and partners needs to be tailored to the multiple protection needs of highly vulnerable people. Of additional concern are IDP hosting communities, many of whom were already vulnerable pre-displacement, and are likely to require sustained assistance through 2019.
Sporadic unrest often has devastating impact on basic service delivery, including the disruption of health and nutrition services, education, and food security. This elevates the risk of disease outbreaks and malnutrition. In Somali region for example, which is already affected by high malnutrition rates, the conflict in August 2018 led to an estimated 50 per cent turnover of health professionals, which caused serious disruptions in health and nutrition service delivery.
The 2018 seasonal rains performed well in most parts of the country. Rains allowed most agrarian communities to benefit from normal harvests, while replenishing the water sources and rejuvenating pastures of pastoralist and agropastoralist communities. Despite these positive developments, communities who suffered consecutive years of severe drought, who lost productive assets, or took on significant debts to shoulder the brunt of the crisis, will continue to need sustained humanitarian assistance and recovery support throughout 2019. According to the Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU), the scale and severity of the nutrition situation remains in line with the 2018 Humanitarian and Disaster Resilience Plan (HDRP) mid-year review, which projected 4.53 million children under five years and pregnant and lactating women requiring treatment for acute malnutrition in 2018.
Lack of access to safe water and sanitation coupled with poor hygiene practices continue to pose disease outbreak risks, including Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) in parts of the country. Over 3,000 cases of AWD were reported in 2018 nationwide, the majority in Tigray region, followed by Afar.
The impact of poor sanitation practices on the health of IDPs and IDP returnees is particularly concerning, especially in areas where the infrastructure is weak and where depleted water tables limit access to safe water.
At the start of 2019, Ethiopia is also hosting over 900,000 refugees who were forced to flee their homes as a result of political instability, military conscription, conflict, famine and other problems in their countries of origin. The majority of refugees in Ethiopia are located in Tigray Regional State and the four emerging regions of Ethiopia: Afar, Benishangul Gumuz, Gambela and Somali regions. The South Sudanese are the largest refugee population in Ethiopia, followed by Somalis and Eritreans.
While responding to the immediate life-saving needs of existing and emerging crisis, the Government of Ethiopia has also been seeking durable solutions to address the needs of people affected by protracted displacement, or to prevent new ones from developing where and when possible. To this end, the Government has convened peace and reconciliation conferences and continues to facilitate the safe return of IDPs. While some IDP returnees have successfully returned to their respective homes, the large majority of those who have returned are still living in collective centers in areas of return, while others were forced into secondary displacements due to renewed conflict.