A forgotten crisis: Half a million people displaced by drought in Ethiopia

Around 425,000 people are estimated to be living in internal displacement in Ethiopia as a result of drought. Children and youth make up half of this figure. As the Ethiopian Government launches a new initiative to find lasting solutions to displacement in the region, a new report calls for more investment in local capacity and resilience.

Conflict over resources and ethnic violence triggered more displacement in Ethiopia than any other country in the world in 2018, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). More than one million people are still uprooted from their homes. A further 425,000 people have been displaced by drought that occurred between 2015 and 2017. New IDMC research, launched today in Geneva, looks at the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia, where pastoralists lost up to 80 per cent of their livestock and many still live in camps reliant on aid up to four years later.

“Despite the scale and duration of displacement associated with drought in Ethiopia, it has been overshadowed by the recent fighting and become a ‘forgotten crisis’. Pastoralists told us “We have no hope for the future.” Many of these people have nowhere to return to, so alternative solutions must be found,” said Pablo Ferrández, IDMC researcher and the report’s author.

The report findings show that displacement triggered by drought in Ethiopia is a protracted but short-range issue, and that those displaced prefer to integrate in their new locations rather than to return home. More than 200 displacement sites that have existed since or before 2017 are still open today. Around 70 per cent of those interviewed did not travel far from their place of origin. IDMC researchers spoke to pastoralists who rely on livestock to make a living, moving around to find grazing land and water. Since they lost their animals in the drought, respondents said that they have no reason to return.   

The Ethiopia Durable Solutions Initiative (DSI); a joint endeavour between the government of Ethiopia, the UN, non-governmental organisations and donors, was launched in Addis Ababa last week. Its aim is to facilitate cooperation and collective action on the issue of internal displacement. Strategies proposed by the DSI involve shifting the approach from short-term humanitarian crisis management to long-term development and planning for future risks.

“The testimonies of the 219 Ethiopians IDMC spoke to all point to the need for investing in local capacity, supporting livelihoods and building resilience – and the new Durable Solutions Initiative aims to do just that.

“We commend the Ethiopian Government for the taking the lead in investing in long-term, lasting solutions for displaced people and we are proud to be a partner on this crucial issue,” said Bina Desai, IDMC’s head of policy and research.  

Frankie Parrish

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