IOM Re-Appeals for Millions of Dollars Needed to Assist Migrants on The ‘Eastern Route’ from the Horn of Africa to Yemen

Young men walk the Eastern Route from Garowe to Bosaso, Somalia, to cross to Yemen. Photo: Said Fadhaye/IOM/2023

Nairobi - IOM, the International Organization for Migration is re-appealing for $58.5 million US Dollars to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to over 1 million vulnerable migrants including women and children on the ‘Eastern Route’, that runs from the Horn of Africa to Yemen and the Gulf nations. In February IOM and 47 humanitarian and development partners appealed for $84.2 million USD, but so far only $2 million US Dollars has been provided. 

The ‘Eastern Route’ is one of the most dangerous and complex human migratory routes in Africa and the world. Hundreds of thousands of people primarily from Ethiopia and Somalia travel the route each year in the hope of reaching the Gulf countries to find work. They face extreme life-threatening dangers including starvation, hunger, and dehydration. They are often targeted by people smugglers and traffickers, and can face kidnap, arbitrary arrest, detention, and forced recruitment into warring groups, particularly in Yemen. 

The migrants are primarily young men and women, and increasingly minors. In 2022, the number of female migrants on the route rose to 106,700, and the number of children to 14,900, double the figures from the previous year. These numbers are higher than the number of migrants arriving from the whole of the African continent along the Central, Eastern and Western Mediterranean and Atlantic Routes combined, according to IOM. 

The lack of funding is also resulting in a severe cut in access to humanitarian assistance and protection for migrants, including help provided in Migrant Response Centres along the route. This help include immediate and short-term support, direct assistance through shelter, counselling support and medical care. Lack of funding also results in reduced access to assistance when migrants arrive home which includes onwards travel through post arrival and reception support. Every year thousands of migrants give up on the hope of reaching the Gulf and want to return home through IOM supported Voluntary Return. 

The re-appeal for funding was made during a briefing held by IOM’s Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya, to donors from countries including the US, EU, the UK, Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Japan and the Netherlands. 

“We convene you because the Eastern Route is grossly underfunded beyond levels experienced in previous years, as donors are yet to come through with funding for the 2023 appeal, and there has been a deprioritization of the Eastern Route by other donors.” – Justin MacDermott (IOM Deputy Regional Director)

Ethiopia, where most migrants on the ‘Eastern Route’ come from is one of the countries most impacted by the lack of funding.

“Funding challenges are endangering support for Ethiopian migrants returning from the Eastern Route. Urgent action is needed to address limited resources for shelter, reintegration, and basic needs. IOM needs increased funding to ensure wellbeing and sustainable solutions for Ethiopian migrants.” - Pekka Marjamaki, Programme Officer IOM Ethiopia.

Djibouti, which is the main country of transit for migrants trying to reach the Gulf and trying to return home is also being negatively affected by the funding crisis for migrants on the ‘Eastern Route’. Every month tens of thousands transit through Djibouti along the route.

“Insufficient funding is having severe consequences, including increased fatalities, continued political pressure, and potential strain on neighbouring countries.” - Tanja Pacifico, Chief of Mission IOM Djibouti.

Humanitarian responses to the needs of migrants from Somalia are also being impacted.

“Somalia faces a funding gap for migrant protection and assistance, requiring urgent intervention. As a country of origin, transit, and to a lesser extent, destination. Without funding, crucial services and support will be severely impacted, increasing risks for migrants.” - Masood Ahmadi (Programme Manager, IOM Somalia)

Migrants on the ‘Eastern Route’ must pass through Yemen to reach the Gulf and often to return home. A country at war for the last nine years, more than 44,000 migrants are either trapped or stranded in the country.

“Yemen has experienced a record influx of migrants, surpassing 40,000 arrivals in the first four months of 2023. Immediate support is imperative to address migrant challenges and ensure the provision of essential services. Donor support is crucial to alleviate funding shortages and enhance conditions for migrants in Yemen.” - Mohan Mishra, Senior Field and Programme Coordinator IOM Yemen

The recent outbreak of conflict in neighbouring Sudan is also adding to needs of migrants in the region, in Ethiopia.  Over 12,000 people from Sudan have arrived from across the border, daily arrivals were recorded as 1,000 by IOM Ethiopia since the start of the violence. And at the beginning of May in Djibouti, authorities announced new measures to manage irregular migration, that has led to the involuntary return of thousands of migrants from Djibouti to Ethiopia. A total 6,000 migrants have arrived at the Point of Entry in Dewelle, Ethiopia, many of whom are in desperate need of help.

The re-appeal for funds is urgent and will help to address the needs of some of the most vulnerable migrants in the region and across the Africa continent.

Please read the Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen 2023 Appeal for more information.

For media enquiries please contact: 

Eva Sibanda (MRP Communications Officer, IOM Regional Office) at /  +254795424202

Yvonne Ndege (Regional Public Information Officer) or / +254797735977