GENEVA - Aid agencies say more than 800,000 people, displaced by violence in southern Ethiopia, are facing a humanitarian crisis as the rainy season sets in with inadequate shelter to protect them from cold, wet weather. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee their homes last month when inter-communal clashes broke out in southern Ethiopia’s Gedeo and West Guji zones.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says people have walked for days to escape the fighting, with nothing but the clothes on their back. It says many have been forced to sleep in the open along the way.
IOM spokesman Joel Millman says many of the displaced are staying with relatives in local communities or in rented accommodations. Others are sheltering in schools, government buildings and disused factories.
“Thousands of people are crammed into overcrowded collective centers unfit for human habitation," he said. "Others sleep outside on bare floors with nothing more than a tarpaulin to shield them from the cold and rain. Open-fire cooking in overly congested buildings, poor sanitation and cold weather are all contributing to a worsening environment from both health and protection perspectives.”
Aid agencies report the displaced do not have enough food, clean water, shelter and other basic necessities. They warn people will be at risk of malnutrition and disease outbreaks if humanitarian assistance is not scaled up.
Millman says the IOM has distributed 1,000 blankets in the past week and is in the process of building 40 communal shelters and digging 150 latrines.
The international Committee of the Red Cross says it, together with the Ethiopia Red Cross, will provide relief to 100,000 people. The agencies say they also will provide medicine and health supplies to local clinics.