IOM Supports Livelihood Help for South Sudanese Refugees, Host Communities in Ethiopia

Since September 2016, nearly 73,000 South Sudanese refugees have crossed into Gambella, one of Ethiopia’s least developed regions. IOM is supporting South Sudanese refugees and host communities to increase their household income through several small-scale livelihood activities.

The provision of livelihood assistance is a part of a project funded by the Government of Japan on shelter and livelihood for refugees and host communities in Gambella, Dollo Ado and Assosa.

The project aims to improve household income for refugees and host communities through targeted livelihood support with activities including training and provision of materials in beekeeping, poultry-rearing and other agriculture activities. The programme also offers sewing and fishing materials, and has supported a total of 4,150 individuals from Kamri, Jewi and Bonga host communities and 17,800 refugees from Jewi camp.

“Engaging refugees and host communities in livelihood interventions plays a vital role in maintaining positive relations between refugees and the surrounding community,” said Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia’s Chief of Mission. “As the majority of South Sudanese refugees are hosted in remote, under-developed and economically under-served areas, livelihood assistance helps communities to cope with the economic impact of hosting a large number of refugees.”

The presence of refugees has the potential to further exacerbate the vulnerability of the host population by increasing competition over limited social services, infrastructure, livelihoods and environmental and natural resources. Pre-existing inter-ethnic tensions between the predominantly Nuer South Sudanese refugees and Anuak Ethiopians could lead to clashes if assistance is not adequately balanced in aid interventions.

Akenya, 18, lives in Jewi village with his mother, father and five siblings. He benefitted from IOM’s poultry rearing livelihoods project. His village is located next to Jewi refugee camp which hosts over 57,000 South Sudanese refugees. Akenya explains the impact of living beside the camp: “The refugees have taken most of the firewood from the forest, which is contributing to deforestation. This affects us and our further livelihoods, because most of us rely on agricultural activities to earn a living.”

IOM supported Akenya to initiate his poultry rearing business by providing training and 23 chickens. When speaking of the assistance he received, Akenya shares, “The chickens provided by IOM gave birth to more chickens and now I have 45. I sell the eggs in the market in Jewi and can support my family with the proceeds.”

On 25 March 2017, 40 South Sudanese refugees graduated from the basic tailoring course provided over a two-month period. Throughout the duration of the course participants were provided with practical training on drafting, cutting and stitching clothing. A qualified trainer and training assistant selected from the refugee community gave a 5-hour course five days per week.

The graduation ceremony was attended by 60 guests including family members of the graduates, IOM staff and Jewi representatives of ARRA, UNHCR and RCC. Participants received certificates and sewing machines (one for every four persons) to support them in practicing their newly acquired skill and generate income for themselves.

Said IOM Head of Sub-Office, Miriam Mutalu: “Continued assistance to meet the needs of refugees and the host population is critical. Actions aimed at preventing conflict and supporting peaceful coexistence should be mainstreamed into refugee response efforts.”

With prospects dim for an immediate political solution to the conflict in South Sudan, a potential 50,000 South Sudanese refugees could seek asylum in the country by the end of the year, highlighting the need for continued support from the humanitarian and donor community to meet the needs of refugees and the host population. 

For further information, please contact Alemayehu Seifeselassie, IOM Ethiopia. Tel:  +251.911.63.90.82   Email:

IOM supports livelihood interventions for South Sudanese refugees and host communities in Gambella. Photo: IOM