Drought-stricken Ethiopia Provides Relief For Refugees

Nazar, his wife and their two children excited to be in the first bus leaving Gemed on that day. They spent the past five months in the bush on the other side of the border, hiding from the ongoing conflict and surviving on wild roots and waterfrom the river. Copyright WFP/Judith Schuler

Fleeing conflict and drought in their native Somalia, Talata and her family undertook a slow and dangerous journey to Ethiopia in search of refuge. Ethiopia, itself reeling from a severe drought, is often seen as a safe haven by refugees fleeing conflict in Somalia, Sudan, and Eritrea.

GEMED – During the Horn of Africa crisis, people across the region knew that the refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya would offer safety and life-saving support -- if they could reach them. Camps like the one in the Ethiopian town of Admazine, supported by WFP with help from the EU, were a strong draw for those without food, especially the many families living amidst Somalia's civil conflict.

Talata and her family were among those in Somalia who overcame numerous obstacles to reach Ethiopia. For five months, Talata and her family hid in the border area between Sudan and Ethiopia, surviving on wild roots and water from the river. They were surrounded by continuous fighting and always had to be on the move. At one point their temporary home was burned down and they were forced to flee with only a change of clothes and a radio. 

When they finally managed to cross the border into Ethiopia, Talata’s family were given critical help by people from a local community, Gemed. The residents found them in the forest and brought them to their village where they received their first real meal in a long time.

This small, rural community which subsists on agriculture and very basic gold mining has been hosting more than 3,000 people since September, providing them with food and shelter. Even though people in the host community can barely cover their own needs, they wanted to help their neighbors.

Soon after being aided by the people of Gemed, Talata and her family arrived in the Admazine camp, where they received WFP food assistance. With the help of the EU, WFP currently provides food to almost 300,000 refugees in Ethiopia, including 50,000 from Sudan.

In addition to general food rations, malnourished children and pregnant/nursing women receive Supercereals, a fortified food, to help them regain weight. Given the unstable situation in three neighboring countries – Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea – the number of refugees in Ethiopia is increasing every day.