• Meheret Gebretensay Gebremedhin | IOM Ethiopia Shelter Programme

Mekelle, Tigray- Gebru Alemayehu is a 75-year-old IOM shelter incentive worker living in Seba Care 4 Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) site in Mekelle, Tigray Region in the northern part of Ethiopia. Due to the conflict that erupted in the region in November 2020, Gebru and his family of seven left their hometown and arrived at Ayder Elementary School. They were eventually relocated to Seba Care 4 IDP site where more than 12,000 people are currently residing.

“Life was not easy. I had to leave behind my home, belongings, and community. I had to start my life from scratch in a new and unfamiliar environment together with my family,” Gebru shares.

In 2022, IOM Ethiopia’s Shelter team established a team to construct dry masonry walls to strengthen the shelter structures in the camp. Gebru was one of the incentive workers hired by IOM.

Gebru was one of the incentive workers hired by IOM to support in strengthening sheleters in the IDP site. Photo: Kaye Viray/ IOM 2023
The Seba Care IDP site in Mekelle, Tigray region hosts over 12,000 conflict-displaced persons. Photo: Kaye Viray/IOM 2023

Despite the challenges he faced, Gebru saw this opportunity as a chance to not only rebuild his own life but also contribute to the rebuilding of his community. He saw the construction of the masonry walls as a symbol of resilience and hope, a tangible step towards creating a safer and more stable environment for everyone affected by the displacement. Gebru was determined to give his best efforts, knowing that by doing so, he could inspire others to persevere and find strength in the face of adversity.

“Stories of IDPs like Gebru are common. Their resilience and commitment to contribute in meaningful ways to their communities represent an important contribution of IDPs themselves to sustainable development,” says Kelley Hilton, IOM’s Shelter Project Officer for Tigray.

IOM’s Shelter team in Tigray has several incentive teams compiled of skilled IDPs who maintain and repair emergency shelters that have been constructed to house those displaced during the crisis. IOM also supports those displaced with cash for rent activities, household item distributions, and expanding homes of those who are hosting IDPs. Additionally, IOM supports displaced populations who have returned home after the war to damaged houses by supplying repair materials and labour so they can resume their lives in a safe environment.

In 2022, IOM Ethiopia’s Shelter team established a team to construct dry masonry walls to strengthen the shelter structures in the camp. Photo: Kaye Viray/ IOM 2023

Through IOM Ethiopia’s Shelter programme, Gebru was able to earn an income and provide for his family, which was a huge relief for him. With his determination and hard work, Gebru was able to not only support his family financially but also regain a sense of purpose and stability in his life.

“Being an incentive worker has provided me with employment, but more importantly, it gave me hope for a brighter future,” Gebru said.

IOM’s shelter support is funded by USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), the Government of Japan and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).  

This story is written by Meheret Gebretensay Gebremedhin, IOM Ethiopia Shelter Programme.