• This story is written by Eric Mazango | IOM Ethiopia

Somali Region, Ethiopia – “We, as a group of women, would usually walk all day to Jigjiga, the region’s capital some 40 kilometres away, to find daily work. Unfortunately, we are not always successful, and this is a struggle for us,” a displaced woman said while sitting with an all-female group outside of their informal settlement.

These women gathered to convene a focused group session for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Tuliguled Town, located in the Somali region of Ethiopia.

Facilitated by the staff of the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM), these group discussions provides a platform for the women to articulate their priorities and concerns, enabling IOM and partners  to gain valuable insights into the specific challenges faced by this vulnerable population.

Displaced women gather to share their experience, struggles and hopes in a settlement in Ethiopia’s Somali Region. Photo: Abel Wondimagegnehu Tefera/ IOM 2024

These women are facing immense challenges in their daily battle for survival. Having fled inter-communal conflict five years ago, they find themselves in a precarious situation, struggling to meet their basic needs and to provide for their families.

Most arrived at this location five years ago fleeing inter-communal conflict located along the border between Somali and Oromia regions of Ethiopia.

Despite the daily struggles they face, this group of women find some relief in having a safe space to voice out their stories, learn from each other’s experiences and find some solitude in each other’s presence. 

“The primary concerns voiced by the women revolve around the scarcity of food, shelter, and access to education for their children. With the rainy season fast approaching, the urgency for addressing these needs becomes even more critical,” said Eliza Clark, IOM Ethiopia’s Programme Manager for Data and Research

Once farmers and pastoralists, they now lack a stable source of income and are in need of support for small-scale income-generating enterprises to sustain their families.

In their efforts to cope with the harsh realities of displacement, these women engage in activities such as gathering firewood, providing laundry services, and seeking daily employment in Jigjiga City. However, these endeavours are not sufficient to alleviate the financial strain they face.

Some conflict-displaced women in Ethiopia’s Somali Region engage with other forms of livelihood in order to support their needs. Photo: Abel Wondimagegnehu Tefera/ IOM 2024

Furthermore, the lack of lighting at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) site poses a safety concern for the women, particularly at night. Additionally, people with disabilities struggle due to the challenging terrain and absence of mobility aids.

The difficulties extend to the education of displaced girls, with shortages of school supplies and uniforms hindering their access to schooling. Some girls are compelled to forgo education in order to contribute to their family's income, further perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

The situation is mirrored in other spontaneous IDP sites in nearby are such as Caska and Asbuli, where displaced women emphasize similar concerns. Their resilience is evident as they resort to selling various items to mitigate the effects of food scarcity, but the struggle persists.

In response to some of their pressing concerns, IOM Ethiopia provides Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) services, shelter repair kits, and other household and non-food items.

A group of women collects water in a displacement site in Tuliuled, Ethiopia. Photo: Abel Wondimagegnehu Tefera/ IOM 2024.

“The resilience and determination exhibited by these displaced women in the face of adversity serve as a poignant reminder of the strength inherent in the human spirit, but more needs to be done. IOM will continue to advocate for their needs,” IOM’s Eliza Clark added.

IOM’s DTM, WASH, Shelter and other interventions in this area is supported by the USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and the Government of Japan.