The regional state of Gambella located in southwest Ethiopia bordering Sudan hosts the largest refugee population in Ethiopia with 308,978 individuals as of 31 December 2019 (UNHCR 2019 Progress report). Most of the refugees are from South Sudan with most living across seven refugee camps with a few thousand in local settlements in the region.
Repeated natural disasters cause regular internal displacement in the Gambella Regional State and a growing number of internally displaced persons (IDPs). Some IDPs are trapped in protracted displacement situations. Inter-ethnic/cross-border conflicts and seasonal floods are prevalent causes of displacement with a significant proportion of populations living in high-risk riverside areas which provide them access to water. Ongoing and protracted conflicts include repeated violent cattle raiding, committed by cross-border tribes in South Sudan on a yearly basis during the dry season which contribute to increasing the frequency and intensity of internal displacement in Gambella.
IDPs in Gambella are primarily agro-pastoral and face constraints related to returning to communities of origin due to ongoing insecurity which limit the return to regular livelihood activities across assessed IDP sites. Other durable solutions options are limited due in part to the lack of funding and dedicated programing from area partners.
To create a joint and collaborative approach to assist IDPs and resolve protracted displacement situations, the regional Disaster Prevention and Food Security Agency (DPFSA), together with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and International Organization for Migration (IOM), began the setup of a regional Durable Solutions Working Group (DSWG) in 2018-19.
The DSWG is chaired by DPFSA and co-chaired by IOM and a rotating co-chair. Durable solutions is recognized and valued by local partners as a crucial agenda item to collaboratively find sustainable solutions for IDPs in Gambella. In this forum humanitarian and development actors discuss regional durable solutions strategy, develop action plans, standard operating procedures and subsequent to targeted funding and support will pilot durable solutions initiatives tailored to a local context.