News: Severe shortage of humanitarian needs amid surging number of IDPs in Debre Berhan, Amhara region

Internally displaced civilians sheltered in Debre Birhan city, in Amhara Region. Photo: Debre Birhan Communication

Addis Abeba – Over 30,000 Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in the Amhara regional state, Debre Berhan city, who were displced from their neighborhoods in West Shewa, East, and West Wollega zones of Oromia regional state, are facing severe and chronic food, shelter, and other humanitarian shortages, according to the IDPs and local officials who spoke with Addis Standard.

Increasing numbers of civilians have been arriving in Debre Berhan city after being displaced from their villages over the past three years, yet, there remained severe lack of resources to meet basic humanitarian requirements, Berhanu Zewdu, director of Disaster pre-warning and response Agency of Amhara region told Addis Standard.

IDPs in Debre Berhan are sheltered in six camps inside government and private factories. China camp, an edible oil factory operated by Chinese businessmen, is among the six camps housing close to 20,000 IDPs from the four Wollega zones: Horo Guduru, Kelem, East Wollega, and West Wollega.

Nigussie Wubetu, 38, father of a daughter, is among the IDPs in a China camp, displaced from East Wollega Sibu Sire Woreda Cheri Kebele, a neighborhood where he established his household.

Nigussie, who has been displaced for more than a year, used to support his family through farming and commerce. He produces and sells pepper, maize, and teff. He also earned extra income by renting out barbershops to men.

Being a victim and survivor of alleged attack against Amhara minorities in the area by the Oromo Liberation Army (Commonly referred to by the government as “OLF/Shene’) that occurred a year ago, Nigussie has seen many abducted, killed, and looted by the army including himself.

Internally displaced civilians sheltered in Debre Birhan city, in Amhara Region. Photo: Debre Birhan Communication

“I used to produce good, I had a stable house and income. I left all that,” said Nigussie. “We do not get enough support here.”

Considering the size of their families, the IDPs at the China Camp receive 15 kilos of wheat a month he noted.

IDPs in the camp have been maintained for over two years including the newcomers. Since mid-February, more than 3000 IDPs have come to the camp, especially from West and East Wollega according to Berhanu.

“The newly displaced are currently housed in tarpaulin shelters merely to keep them safe from the rain and the cold because there is nowhere to put them,” said Girma Dibab, coordinator for the displaced committee.

“We are offered every three to four months,” said Girma. “There are many children, mothers, and disabled at risk.”

According to Girma, the support from the government is not timely and sufficient. The aid collected from the community, investors, humanitarian organizations, and individuals living in foreign countries is what is being distributed to the displaced.

The standard scale is a minimum of 3 to 4 quintals of wheat every 45 days to provide and sustain adequate food support to the displaced.

Echoeing Girma, Berhanu said Zewdu, the number of displaced people in Debre Berhan is increasing and all services including water and health facilities are provided by North Shewa Zone. Due to the huge shortage, they are directing all the support there that comes in.

“We are requesting the government and other stakeholders to find a charity and non-governmental partners to support the IDPs” he said.

Temporary tarpaulin centers for sheltering purposes are constructed by UNHCR, and Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), a Non-governmental organization dedicated to supporting at times of crisis overseas, according to Simon Tafes, coordinator at the China Camp.

“We have been getting better support from the government only in the recent three months,” said Simon. “At least we did not lose anyone yet.”

However, food, shelter, and essential non-food assistance such as clothing, health service, water, and protection are urgently required for IDPs in the entire Amhara region.

Berhanu stressed that returning the displaced people to their previous life and environment is the permanent solution.

The Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission (EDRMC), in January, revised the classification of 104 hotspot woredas in Amhara hosting more than 600,000 IDPs, of which 43 are priority one, 39 are priority two, and 22 are priority three. All woredas of Wag Hamra and North Wello zones and a majority in North Gondar, South Wello (with more than 200,000 returned IDPs) as well as Oromo Special Zone are classified as priority one.

Displacement and shortage of food have also led to high malnutrition rates in the region. Despite the high needs, 21 woredas have been identified as lacking nutrition partners’ presence due to funding shortages.

According to OCHA, in West Gojam Zone, more than 298,400 IDPs remain in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, joint Multi-Cluster Initial Rapid Assessment reported in February. Some of these IDPs have been displaced since 2018 due to violence in Benishangul Gumuz and western Oromia regions.

In mid-last year, the UN humanitarian report stated “a marked increase of new arrivals (more than 20, 500 people)” is reported across Amhara region due to “the current hostilities in Western Oromia.”

In December last year, more than 4, 000 civilians from the Amhara community who fled attacks in Kiremu district and trekked to Bahir Dar City, the capital of Amhara regional state, after enduring days of suffering were reported to be in need of urgent aid. The residents say they reached Bahir Dar after three days of travels on foot fleeing attacks perpetrated against them by the rebel group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which they call “OLF/Shane” and the regional government security forces.

In parallel, July last year, more than 150 civilian members of Amhara community are reported to have been killed in what Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said was a “new massacre” in Kellem Wollega environs, in western Oromia regional state. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed blamed the killings on “Shene group”, and vowed to “eliminate” the group he called “a terrorist group.” AS

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