IOM Ethiopia plans to provide timely and tailored humanitarian assistance and resilience programming for crisis-affected populations in Ethiopia and vulnerable migrant returnees, aiming towards durable and sustainable solutions.
Ethiopia faces one of the most complex human mobility environments in the world, with a range of social, economic, political and climatic factors driving populations within and outside its borders. In 2020, the country faced a series of shocks that particularly impacted displacement affected communities. The COVID-19 pandemic, the invasion of the desert locust as well as the heavy floods in several parts of the country, all contributed to the increase in the vulnerability of a population already living in precarious conditions. Incidences of political and intercommunal violence flared up in several regions of the country as a result of the tensions around the postponed 2020 elections. In November 2020, tensions between the national and regional governments developed into widespread conflict in the Tigray Region, creating a volatile humanitarian situation as numerous civilians have been displaced. All these events pose high stakes for the stability of the country.
Ethiopia has one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations with displacement risks remaining high in 2021. According to IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) Report from August 2020, 1.82 million people are internally displaced across 1,298 sites in Ethiopia. The primary drivers of this displacement were conflict – by a large margin – as well as climatic shocks such as drought and floods. Ethiopia’s displacement landscape shifted significantly in 2019 and 2020 following the Government of Ethiopia's (GoE) plan to return or relocate internally displaced persons (IDPs) nationwide, which led hundreds of thousands of IDPs to return to their areas of origin or relocate to land designated by governmental bodies. Ethiopia is also the second largest refugee-hosting country in Africa, hosting mainly refugees from South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.
Living conditions for returnees, those who have relocated and IDPs alike, are dire and needs remain high. Shelter, safe access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), basic health services, and critical non-food items (NFIs) are urgent for all. Given the deterioration in the relationships between various levels of government and a recent uptick in conflict, community stabilization, peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts are much needed in the country, both to resolve, and prevent further conflict-induced internal displacement. In addition, disaster prevention and reduction efforts are essential to reduce displacement associated with disasters related to natural hazards and climate risks and to strengthen resilience by incorporating “build-back-better” measures in recovery and reconstruction.
Ethiopia is also a departure, transit and destination country for mixed migration flows in the region. The COVID-19 pandemic translated into increased challenges for spontaneous migrant returnees and deportees. Between 1 April and 31 December 2020, over 30,000 migrants returned to Ethiopia from Djibouti, Sudan, Somalia and Kenya - similar levels of spontaneous returns are expected for 2021. The rate of forced returns from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) plummeted from a monthly average of 10,000 prior to COVID-19 to 721 during the rest of 2020. IOM estimates that as many as 120,825 could return to Ethiopia from KSA over the course of 2021. With the recent closure of most quarantine facilities designated for migrant returnees, immediate needs have shifted towards points of entry (PoEs), which are not adequately equipped to provide support to returnees during the mandatory quarantine period. The mass return of Ethiopian migrants has serious consequences not just for individual migrants and their families, but also for communities and regions that already face significant socioeconomic challenges.