NEARLY one million people have fled their homes in Ethiopia after fighting between two ethnic groups, and many of the refugees are children who are now at risk from malnutrition and disease, aid agencies have warned.
Violence has broken out again between the Guji and Gedeo peoples after rising tensions over control of resources and land boundaries.
It is the second wave of inter-ethnic violence to sweep the region since April, a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says. After the first attacks, the regional authorities agreed to encourage people to return to their homes, but, despite efforts at reconciliation by local elders, some of those who returned home have now fled again.
The UN report says: “The security situation has been challenging despite the deployment of the Ethiopian Defence Forces in the area, with reports of continued destruction of houses, other assets and service infrastructure.”
The Ethiopian government has agreed to set up a commission to look at regional boundaries and to promote reconciliation further. Its Deputy Prime Minister, Ato De meke Mekonnen, visited the area last week for discussions on reconciliation and emergency assistance.
The charity World Vision said that many were families who had fled were now living in schools and churches, or with relatives.
World Vision staff estimate that up to 40,000 people were displaced from their homes in June alone. The charity is appealing for £12 million to help those displaced, particularly young children.
World Vision Ethiopia’s emergency nutrition coordinator, Getahun Mara, said: “Survivors have seen their homes burnt and looted, ruining their means of earning an income. Even when security returns, people will struggle to provide food for their families for months, jeopardising their children’s health.”