• Rahel Negussie | Sr. Communications Assistant

Afar - Thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled armed conflict in Zone 2 - northeast of Ethiopia’s Afar regional state bordering Tigray Region on the west, and Eritrea on the north, over the past few months have found their way to Guha, a small town some 100 kilometres away from the region’s capital Semera.

In May 2022, 30,000 people fleeing the conflict in Northern Ethiopia arrived at Guha Silsa IDP site, in Guha town. The arrivals surged by nearly a thousand daily whenever clashes intensified, according to estimates by the International Organization for Migration (IOM)’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM).

IOM’s DTM team conducting a transit walk to observe the site and to assess both the population size and basic needs. Photo: IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Hiyas Bagabaldo

School buildings erected by a road construction company, and a temporary camp set up by the government sheltered the IDPs, with limited access to food, health, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities. 

New arrivals to such displacement sites are some of the current 4.5 million IDPs in Ethiopia identified by the DTM team, with over 175,000 in Afar already over-stretching limited resources available to sustain them. 

To alleviate the situation, IOM, with support from the United Nation’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), distributed non-food items (NFIs) such as blankets, mats, and kitchen appliances to an estimated 2,200 households.  

Non food items (NFIs) being distributed by IOM to the displaced at Silsa Guya IDP site. Photo: IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Helina Tafesse.
Seada actively participates in focus group discussions conducted by IOM’s shelter team to identify the needs of IDPs at Silsa Guya IDP site. Photo: IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Hiyas Bagabaldo

“We walked for many days before eventually making it to a town called Afdera. We begged truck drivers to give us a ride. My kids were lucky to get a ride, but I had to walk for days to get here,” said Seada Ibrahim explaining how she arrived at Silsa Guha IDP site. 

The mother of three used to be a merchant before she fled the conflict together with her family.

“We were sleeping on the floor on cold nights before IOM provided us with sleeping mats and blankets. We urgently need food, water and shelter. Right now, we are sleeping in the open.”

This arid part of the country has sparse vegetation. The tree shades are welcome relief from the scorching sun during the day. During the day IDPs gather around this dry riverbed. Photo: IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Hiyas Bagabaldo
During discussion IDPs indicated that the most urgent need is shelter. IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Hiyas Bagabaldo

Focus group discussions are held with selected individuals from the community to identify their urgent needs. 

Greater support is required to address the urgent shelter, WASH, health, and protection needs of the displaced.  IOM has deployed health and WASH teams to reach thousands of displaced populations. 

Another affected individual, Awliyayatu Yahya, who came from Abala woreda, some 300 kilometres away say most people abandoned all their belongings to flee the conflict. Some children were separated from their parents too.   

Despite receiving some assistance from IOM, many still need psycho-social support, access to water and adequate shelter. 

“We do not expect to remain displaced and want to return home to continue with our lives, picking up the pieces from where we left. But until then, we need somewhere to live,” says Awliyayatu. 

IOM’s Response 

IOM, in coordination with Afar Regional Bureau of Disaster Risk Management Office, carried out a beneficiary registration and verification exercise and distributed  Emergency Shelter (ES) kits to 7,440 households. They also  received  cash assistance  to buy  additional locally available shelter materials.

A new emergency shelter built at the IDP site. IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Helina Tafesse
IDPs receiving ES kits during distribution at Guha Silsa IDP site. IOM Ethiopia 2022/ Helina Tafesse

“Based on the feedback collected on the ground, we identified shelter is their urgent need and managed to support 7,440 households with ES kits and cash assistance for labour incentives,” says IOM’s Shelter Project Assistant, Hileina Tafesse. “In addition, we supported 2,443 displaced households in Hadar and Afdera woredas in Afar region.”

IOM and partners are continuing to respond to the rising needs of IDPs in the country. 
In 2021, IOM distributed emergency shelter assistance, including in-kind/cash assistance for shelter, to more than 55,000 crisis-affected individuals in Ethiopia.

IOM’s response in Guha Silsa IDP site was funded by the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). 

The story was written by Rahel Negussie, 

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