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The plight of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ethiopia continues to be neglected and not receive the utmost priority it deserves. Internal displacement is a global phenomenon. However, nearly three-quarters of the world’s IDPs live in just 10 countries, including Ethiopia. Although figures for the number of IDPs in Ethiopia differ, currently the country hosts at least some 3.25 million IDPs. Although IDPs are spread throughout its territory, the majority are concentrated in the Tigray, Oromia and Amhara regional states. The reasons for internal displacement in Ethiopia are diverse and feed into each other. Chief among the factors driving the phenomena are conflict, natural disasters, and environmental degradation. The interaction between these causes as well as inadequate political commitment and limited resource has created an environment that has made it impossible to find durable solutions despite long-running endeavors to that goal.

The adverse impacts of displacement has made life an ordeal for the people uprooted from their communities, impeding their ability to rebuild their lives, access basic services, and achieve sustainable livelihoods. One of the primary challenges IDPs in Ethiopia are confronted is the lack of adequate shelter and housing. Many IDPs are forced to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in temporary settlements, often lacking access to clean water, sanitation facilities, and essential services. Food insecurity is another critical challenge faced by IDPs in Ethiopia. Displacement disrupts people’s access to food and livelihood opportunities, leaving them vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition. IDPs often rely on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs, but food aid is not always reliable or sufficient to address long-term food insecurity.

Displacement also severely curtails IDP’s access to other vital services like healthcare and education. Health-wise, IDPs have limited or no access to essential medical care, medications, and treatments. They are particularly vulnerable to infectious diseases, maternal and child health issues, and mental health conditions resulting from trauma and stress. Its effect on education is no less grave, diminishing the opportunity of children and the youth to learn, develop essential skills, and build a better future for themselves. To make matters worse IDPs in Ethiopia are subjected to social exclusion and discrimination. Displacement often leads to the marginalization and stigmatization of IDPs, who are seen as outsiders or intruders in host communities. This social exclusion reduces their access to employment, perpetuating cycles of poverty and vulnerability.

Addressing the challenges faced by IDPs requires a holistic approach that addresses their immediate needs for shelter, food, and healthcare, as well as their long-term needs for social inclusion, economic empowerment, and durable solutions to displacement. There are a number of measures that can and should be taken towards this end. These include providing adequate shelter for IDPs; strengthening healthcare systems in areas hosting IDPs; enhancing social safety nets to ensure access to food for all displaced populations; ensuring access to quality education for IDP children, including formal and non-formal education programs; and promoting social cohesion, community integration, and advocacy for the rights of IDPs. Aside from these, it’s of the essence to introduce legal frameworks that protect the rights of IDPs. In this regard, though Ethiopia ratified the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa, also known as the Kampala Convention, in 2020, the government is yet to submit to Parliament the enabling proclamation that will give effect to the Convention. It’s paramount that this legislation be adopted and put into force within the shortest possible.

The measures needed to alleviate the suffering of IDPs in Ethiopia cannot bear fruit without a comprehensive and coordinated effort on the part of the government, humanitarian organizations, civil society, and the private sector. It’s also vital to strengthening the capacity of government institutions, local authorities, and community-based organizations to overcome the challenges IDPs face. Engaging with displaced populations in decision-making processes, listening to their voices, and respecting their agency are key principles of an effective response. If IDPs in Ethiopia are able to rebuild their lives, realize their potential, and contribute to the country’s development and prosperity priority must be accorded to the rights and well-being of displaced populations, investing in sustainable interventions, and fostering collaboration among all stakeholders.

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