Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Ethiopia's IDP Problem

Ethiopia's Somali Region, where rains have failed for the third consecutive year, is experiencing emergency levels of hunger - one level below famine in a five-point scale used by food agencies. Drought does not recognize borders but international law divides people into refugees and IDPs. Under the 1951 Refugee Convention, crossing a border entitles refugees to international protection, whereas IDPs remain the responsibility of national governments.
In Ethiopia’s Somali region there are 264 sites containing around 577,711 internally displaced persons according to a survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) between May and June 2017. Ethiopia’s Somali region contains the largest proportion of the total 1,056,738 IDPs identified by IOM throughout Ethiopia.

About 2 million animals have died there since the end of last year, crippling herding communities, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“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.”
“Due to a shortage of funding, we were only able to reach 1 million out of 1.7 million in the Somali region in June and July,” says Peter Smerdon, the United Nations World Food Programme regional spokesperson for East Africa.
 The scale of numbers means the government is overwhelmed—many sites have reported no access to food—hence international assistance is sorely needed. But international aid is often more geared toward those who cross international borders.
“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 hasn’t reached that level.”
IDPs are only one part of the humanitarian challenge for those tackling the drought in Ethiopia’s Somali region: 2.5 million people will require food assistance between July and December 2017, according to aid agencies, while some report this number is expected to be revised upwards of 3.3 million by mid-August. The dilemma is made worse by the international humanitarian aid network already straining due to successive protracted global crises in the likes of Yemen, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria.
Many within the aid industry praise Ethiopia’s open-door refugee strategy—in marked contrast to Western countries increasingly focusing on migrant reduction—that means it hosts more than 800,000 people. 
“This country receives billions of dollars in aid—there is so much bi-lateral support, but there is a huge disparity between aid to refugees and IDPs,” says the anonymous director. “How is that possible?”

It is possible to protect the world's poorest from the worst impacts of drought, even in Ethiopia where back-to-back droughts have left 8.5 million people in need of food aid, heads of U.N. food agencies said after a tour of the country. But more investment is needed in long-term projects that can help prevent future droughts from developing into major food crises, they said.
"A drought does not need to become an emergency," said Gilbert Houngbo, president of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Investment in irrigation, water points, rural financial institutions, health and veterinary services helps communities to protect themselves and their livestock through even a devastating drought, he said."We know what works ... "
"We've witnessed here that saving livelihoods means saving lives - it is people's best defence against drought," said Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO's director-general. "It is essential to invest in preparedness and provide farmers and rural communities with knowledge and tools to safeguard themselves and their livelihoods," he said.

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