Ethiopia flag

Ethiopia Ethiopia RSS Feed

2015 UNHCR country operations profile - Ethiopia

| Overview |

Working environment

UNHCR 2015 Ethiopia country operations map

  • Owing to its geographical location and to geopolitical developments, Ethiopia is likely to receive more people seeking refuge from neighbouring countries in 2015 and beyond. The Government maintains an open-door-policy and continues to allow humanitarian access and protection to those seeking refuge on its territory.

  • Ethiopia received around 200,000 new arrivals, mostly from South Sudan, between January and August 2014. More than 630,000 refugees are accommodated, mainly in camps, throughout the country. The Government allocated land for the 23 camps around Assosa, Dollo Ado, Gambella, Jijiga, Semera and Shire and provides police presence at those locations.

  • Since the beginning of 2014, Ethiopia has accepted almost 190,000 refugees who fled conflict in South Sudan. They are mostly women and children, who need protection and assistance and arrive in often alarming nutritional conditions in the Gambella Regional State in western Ethiopia, where infrastructure and services are limited. Large parts of the region are prone to flooding, including the refugee-hosting areas.

  • UNHCR projects will attempt to address the large number of unaccompanied minors continuously arriving from Eritrea. The high risk of trafficking and smuggling that Eritrean refugees are exposed to remains a concern.

  • Provisions under Ethiopian law for refugees' local integration are very limited. While the country maintains reservations to the 1951 Refugee Convention, notably regarding refugees' employment, it supports an out-of-camp scheme that allows refugees to live outside camps and engage in informal livelihood opportunities. In addition, students can attend universities, with fees paid for by the Government (75 per cent) and UNHCR (25 per cent).

People of concern

The main groups of people of concern to UNHCR in Ethiopia in 2015 are: South Sudanese refugees in camps in the Gambella region who either fled violence that erupted in December 2013, or have arrived since 1991 seeking refuge from previous inter-ethnic clashes; Somali refugees living in Dollo Ado and Jijiga camps, as well as in Addis Ababa, who sought protection in Ethiopia due to insecurity and/or famine at various points between 1990 and 2011;

Eritrean refugees, including many unaccompanied and separated children, who have sought asylum in Ethiopia since 2000 and are mainly located in camps in Afar and Shire, in Tigray region, as well as in Addis Ababa and other urban centres; and Sudanese refugees fleeing fighting in Sudan's Blue Nile State or Darfur, who live in three camps in the Assosa area in Benishangul-Gumuz region.

UNHCR 2015 planning figures for Ethiopia
Type of population Origin January 2015 December 2015
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total in country Of whom assisted
Total 729,460 729,460 821,700 821,700
Refugees Eritrea 106,670 106,670 131,660 131,660
Somalia 254,680 254,680 265,010 265,010
South Sudan 300,000 300,000 350,000 350,000
Various 67,620 67,620 74,530 74,530
Asylum-seekers Eritrea 50 50 50 50
Somalia 50 50 50 50
South Sudan 50 50 50 50
Various 350 350 350 350

| Response |

Needs and strategies

In 2015, UNHCR will continue providing protection and assistance to more than 720,000 people in Ethiopia. In coordination with the Government and partners, the organization will address the needs of populations of concern.

It aims to improve services, particularly education and health, in camps opened before 2014, and foster resilience through livelihood activities. Camps opened in 2014 will be fully developed, with adequate services and facilities.

Resettlement remains the most viable durable solution for refugees in Ethiopia but is only available to a small percentage of them; the Office aims to increase both the number of refugees resettled and the number of resettlement countries. At the same time, other solutions are being explored: UNHCR's out-of-camp policy, for example, will be further implemented and the Office will advocate for naturalization of refugees married to Ethiopian nationals.

Unaccompanied children arriving from Eritrea in high numbers require special care arrangements to ensure their protection from abuse and trafficking - a comprehensive regional project has been developed.

The above-mentioned are the priorities for all refugee groups. The objectives below represent selected examples to highlight some of the activities.

| Implementation |


The effective coordination environment put in place in response to the Level-3 emergency in South Sudan is likely to continue in 2015, particularly for the implementation and review of the Regional Refugee Response Plan.

UNHCR's main government counterpart and implementing partner in Ethiopia will continue to be the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA).

The organization will build on well-established coordination forums such as the Refugee Task Force, and stakeholder meetings at field offices and camps.

The Office will continue to engage with UNICEF, guided by a letter of understanding and plan of action that outline coordination of critical activities for: child protection, health and nutrition, education, and water and sanitation. WFP in Ethiopia will issue a new Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation in 2015, coordinating with UNHCR, which will contain newly-introduced components, including the cash-for-food project, expanded use of biometrics, and strengthened protection procedures.

UNHCR is fully engaged in the Humanitarian Country Team in Ethiopia, where programmes are discussed strategically to ensure that the needs of refugees are adequately presented and addressed.

In 2015, the organization will continue to lead the protection cluster within the Ethiopian cluster set-up, with the aim of strengthening coordination and further engagement with the Ethiopian Government, as well as capacity building and mainstreaming protection into other sectors.

2015 UNHCR partners in Ethiopia
Implementing partners
Government agencies: Administration for Refugee Returnee Affairs, Bureau of Agriculture, Natural Resources Development and Environmental Protection
NGOs: Action contre la Faim - France, Africa Humanitarian Action, African Humanitarian Aid and Development Agency, Danish Refugee Council, Development Inter-Church Aid Department. Orthodox Church Ethiopia, GOAL, HelpAge International, International Medical Corps - USA, International Rescue Committee - USA, Jesuit Refugee Service, Lutheran World Federation - Switzerland, Mother and Child Development Organization - Ethiopia, Mothers and Children Multisectoral Development Organization, Norwegian Refugee Council, Opportunities in Industrialisation Centre - Ethiopia, Organisation for Sustainable Development, Oxfam - GB, Partner for Refugee Services, Partnership for Pastoralist Development Association, Pastoralist Welfare Organization, Rehabilitation Development Organization - Ethiopia, Save the Children International, Save the Environment, Tselemet Woreda Agriculture and Rural Development Office, World Vision International, ZOA Vluchtelingenzorg/Refugee Care - Netherlands
Operational partners
NGOs: Adventist Development and Relief Agency, Afar Pastoralist Development Association, Catholic Relief Service, Center for Victims of Torture, Comitato Collaborazione Medica, Concern, Cooperazione Internationale, DIAKONIE, EEC/ Mekane Yesus, Humedica, Ethiopian Red Cross Society, Islamic Relief and Development, Médecins Sans Frontières - Spain, Netherlands and France, Norwegian Church Aid, Plan International, Women and Health Alliance International

| Financial information |

Several mass refugee influxes led to budget increases during the past four years, from USD 100.2 million in 2010 to USD 284.6 million in 2014. For 2015, the ExCom-approved budget is set at USD 206.9 million. This does not include the supplementary needs that arose during 2014 and which, with anticipated new refugee influxes, may require additional funding in 2015.

Funding shortfalls in 2015 would seriously compromise the well-being of people of concern at several levels, particularly their health and the protection of children and women against exploitation or abuse. Secondary movements and the trafficking phenomenon are likely to increase needs, as will, the burden on host communities, with the risk of a reduction in asylum space in Ethiopia.

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2015 Update



Statistical Snapshot*
* As at June 2015
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation for whom refugee status has, for practical or other reasons, not been ascertained. In the absence of Government figures, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in many industrialized countries based on 10 years of individual asylum-seeker recognition.
  3. Persons whose applications for asylum or refugee status are pending as at 30 June 2015 at any stage in the asylum procedure.
  4. Refugees who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015. Source: country of origin and asylum.
  5. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and assistance. It also includes people in IDP-like situations. This category is descriptive in nature and includes groups of persons who are inside their country of nationality or habitual residence and who face protection risks similar to those of IDPs but who, for practical or other reasons, could not be reported as such.
  6. IDPs protected/assisted by UNHCR who have returned to their place of origin during the first half of 2015.
  7. Refers to persons who are not considered as nationals by any State under the operation of its law. This category refers to persons who fall under the agency's statelessness mandate because they are stateless according to this international definition, but data from some countries may also include persons with undetermined nationality.
  8. Refers to individuals who do not necessarily fall directly into any of the other groups but to whom UNHCR may extend its protection and/or assistance services. These activities might be based on humanitarian or other special grounds.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Residing in Ethiopia [1]
Refugees [2] 702,467
Asylum Seekers [3] 2,871
Returned Refugees [4] 2
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Stateless Persons [7] 0
Various [8] 346
Total Population of Concern 705,686
Originating from Ethiopia [1]
Refugees [2] 88,149
Asylum Seekers [3] 72,278
Returned Refugees [4] 2
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) [5] 0
Returned IDPs [6] 0
Various [8] 367
Total Population of Concern 160,796

Ethiopia UNHCR Fundraising Reports Rss FeedUNHCR Fundraising Reports

more documents

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Bonga camp is located in the troubled Gambella region of western Ethiopia. But it remains untouched by the ethnic conflicts that have torn nearby Gambella town and Fugnido camp in the last year.

For Bonga's 17,000 Sudanese refugees, life goes on despite rumblings in the region. Refugee children continue with school and play while their parents make ends meet by supplementing UNHCR assistance with self-reliance projects.

Cultural life is not forgotten, with tribal ceremonies by the Uduk majority. Other ethnic communities – Shuluks, Nubas and Equatorians – are welcome too, judging by how well hundreds of newcomers have settled in after their transfer from Fugnido camp in late 2002.

Bonga Camp, Ethiopia

Crossing the Gulf of Aden

Every year thousands of people in the Horn of Africa - mainly Somalis and Ethiopians - leave their homes out of fear or pure despair, in search of safety or a better life. They make their way over dangerous Somali roads to Bossaso in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

In this lawless area, smuggler networks have free reign and innocent and desperate civilians pay up to US$150 to make the perilous trip across the Gulf of Aden.

Some stay weeks on end in safe houses or temporary homes in Bossaso before they can depart. A sudden call and a departure in the middle of the night, crammed in small unstable boats. At sea, anything can happen to them - they are at the whim of smugglers. Some people get beaten, stabbed, killed and thrown overboard. Others drown before arriving on the beaches of Yemen, which have become the burial ground for hundreds who many of those who died en route.

Crossing the Gulf of Aden


In February 2005, one of the last groups of Somalilander refugees to leave Aisha refugee camp in eastern Ethiopia boarded a UNHCR convoy and headed home to Harrirad in North-west Somalia - the self-declared independent state of Somaliland. Two years ago Harrirad was a tiny, sleepy village with only 67 buildings, but today more than 1,000 people live there, nearly all of whom are former refugees rebuilding their lives.

As the refugees flow back into Somalia, UNHCR plans to close Aisha camp by the middle of the year. The few remaining refugees in Aisha - who come from southern Somalia - will most likely be moved to the last eastern camp, Kebribeyah, already home to more than 10,000 refugees who cannot go home to Mogadishu and other areas in southern Somalia because of continuing lawlessness there. So far refugees have been returning to only two areas of the country - Somaliland and Puntland in the north-east.


East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

Every month, thousands of refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants from Somalia and Ethiopia cross the Gulf of Aden or the Red Sea to reach Yemen, fleeing drought, poverty, conflict or persecution. And although this year's numbers are, so far, lower than in 2012 - about 62,200 in the first 10 months compared to 88,533 for the same period last year - the Gulf of Aden remains one of the world's most travelled sea routes for irregular migration (asylum-seekers and migrants). UNHCR and its local partners monitor the coast to provide assistance to the new arrivals and transport them to reception centres. Those who make it to Yemen face many challenges and risks. The government regards Somalis as prima facie refugees and automatically grants them asylum, but other nationals such as the growing number of Ethiopians can face detention. Some of the Somalis make their own way to cities like Aden, but about 50 a day arrive at Kharaz Refugee Camp, which is located in the desert in southern Yemen. Photographer Jacob Zocherman recently visited the Yemen coast where arrivals land, and the camp where many end up.

East Africans continue to flood into the Arabian Peninsula

New Arrivals in Yemen

During one six-day period at the end of March, more than 1,100 Somalis and Ethiopians arrived on the shores of Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden on smuggler's boats from Bosaso, Somalia. At least 28 people died during these recent voyages – from asphyxiation, beating or drowning – and many were badly injured by the smugglers. Others suffered skin problems as a result of prolonged contact with sea water, human waste, diesel oil and other chemicals.

During a recent visit to Yemen, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Erika Feller pledged to further raise the profile of the situation, to appeal for additional funding and international action to help Yemen, and to develop projects that will improve the living conditions and self sufficiency of the refugees in Yemen.

Since January 2006, Yemen has received nearly 30,000 people from Somalia, Ethiopia and other places, while more than 500 people have died during the sea crossing and at least 300 remain missing. UNHCR provides assistance, care and housing to more than 100,000 refugees already in Yemen.

New Arrivals in Yemen

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

During two decades of conflict and chaos in Somalia, Mohammed Ousman stayed in Mogadishu and taught art as others fled the country. But life became impossible after Al Shabaab militants killed his brother for continuing to practise art. Four of the man's nine children were also murdered. Mohammed closed his own "Picasso Art School" and married his brother's widow, in accordance with Somali custom. But without a job, the 57-year-old struggled to support two families and eventually this cost him his first family. Mohammed decided to leave, flying to Berbera in Somaliland in late 2011 and then crossing to Aw-Barre refugee camp in Ethiopia, where he joined his second wife and her five children. UNHCR transferred Mohammed and his family to Addis Ababa on protection grounds, and in the belief that he could make a living there from his art. But he's discovering that selling paintings and drawings can be tough - he relies on UNHCR support. The following images of the artist and his family were taken by UNHCR's Kisut Gebre Egziabher.

A Family of Somali Artists Continue to Create in Exile

Climate change and displacement

In the past few years, millions of people have been displaced by natural disasters, most of which are considered to be the direct result of climate change. Sudden weather events, such as Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis in 2008, widespread flooding in Kenya's Dadaab refugee camps in 2006 and the drought that hit Ethiopia in the 1980s, can leave huge numbers of people traumatized and without access to shelter, clean water and basic supplies.

The international community has entrusted UNHCR with responsibility for protecting and assisting people who are forcibly displaced and who cannot return safely home. Although the majority of people displaced by climate change will remain within their own borders, where states have clearly defined responsibilities, additional support may be required.

When called upon to intervene, UNHCR can deploy emergency teams and provide concrete support in terms of registration, documentation, family reunification and the provision of shelter, basic hygiene and nutrition.

Among those who are displaced across borders as a result of climate change, some will be refugees while others may not meet the definition. Nevertheless, many may be in need of protection and assistance.

Climate change and displacement

New arrivals in Ethiopia: Remote Dolo Ado becomes a safe haven for 10,000 Somalis fleeing violence

Since the beginning of this year an estimated 10,000 Somalis have crossed the border and sought shelter in Dolo Ado, a remote, sun-scorched and predominantly Somali corner of south-east Ethiopia. Most have fled insecurity, following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from south and central Somalia and the takeover of these areas by insurgent elements. At the peak of the influx in early February 2009, about 150 people were crossing the border each day.

In reponse, a UNHCR emergency team was sent to help run a transit centre in Dolo Ado. In addition, UNHCR dispatched convoys carrying emergency aid, including mosquito nets, blankets, jerry cans, kitchen sets and plastic sheets. Relief efforts are being coordinated with other UN agencies and NGOs to ensure needs are being met.

Although a number of displaced Somalis within south and central Somalia have started to return, mainly to Mogadishu, many Somalis remain in Dolo Ado in need of protection. Given the poor prospects for repatriation in the foreseeable future, a camp is now under development and refugees are being screened.

New arrivals in Ethiopia: Remote Dolo Ado becomes a safe haven for 10,000 Somalis fleeing violence

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to ServePlay video

Ethiopia: Education, A Refugee's Call to Serve

War forced Lim Bol Thong to flee South Sudan, putting his dreams of becoming a doctor on hold. As a refugee in the Kule camp in Gambella, Ethiopia, he has found another way to serve. Just 21 years old, Lim started teaching chemistry at the school's primary school and last year was promoted to Vice Principal.

Ethiopia: Far From Home Play video

Ethiopia: Far From Home

Nyabuka Lam arrived in Pagak, Ethiopia in September after escaping armed men who shot her three children and husband back in her home country, South Sudan. After walking for 15 days to reach the safety of Pagak, she is now finally on a path to recovery.

Canada: Light Years Ahead
Play video

Canada: Light Years Ahead

With help from the Government of Canada, lives of refugees in Chad and Ethiopia have been transformed through the Light Years Ahead project.

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee InfluxPlay video

Ethiopia: South Sudanese Refugee Influx

Despite a ceasefire agreement signed in early May, fighting continues between government and opposition forces in South Sudan. The renewed conflict has forced thousands of refugees to seek shelter in Ethiopia.

South Sudan: Here and HelpingPlay video

South Sudan: Here and Helping

The South Sudanese town of Bor was among the worst hit in the latest violence in the country. These newly displaced people found shelter in an Ethiopian refugee camp.

Kenya: Hawa's Dilemma Play video

Kenya: Hawa's Dilemma

When Hawa was a child, her father was murdered by rebels and her mother was kidnapped. Later Hawa was jailed and raped. When she was released, she fled to Kenya, where she now lives as a refugee. No one chooses to be a refugee.
Ethiopia: Arriving in Assosa Play video

Ethiopia: Arriving in Assosa

Zeneib was living in her husband's village in Sudan's Blue Nile state when it was attacked. She lost three brothers and then endured tremendous hardship on the journey to Ethiopia with her children.
Somalia: Fleeing FaminePlay video

Somalia: Fleeing Famine

Tukaay is one of the nearly 1.5 million internally displaced Somalis struggling with drought and conflict.
Ethiopia: Somali arrivalsPlay video

Ethiopia: Somali arrivals

This parched and remote corner of southeast Ethiopia has received an endless flow of Somali refugees, many of them malnourished and bearing tragic stories.
Ethiopia: All AlonePlay video

Ethiopia: All Alone

Kicking a football around, they seem carefree and happy. But these children are refugees, many of them unaccompanied, and they face a host of problems.
Goodwill Ambassador: Barbara Hendricks in EthiopiaPlay video

Goodwill Ambassador: Barbara Hendricks in Ethiopia

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador highlights the plight of refugees in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia: A Green Refugee CampPlay video

Ethiopia: A Green Refugee Camp

A refugee camp might seem like an unlikely place for a conservation project. but Sherkole in the western highlands of Ethiopia is showing that it can be done. The results are positive.
Somali Refugees: Ethiopian CampsPlay video

Somali Refugees: Ethiopian Camps

Ethiopias fortunes are closely linked with those of its troubled neighbour, Somalia. It has served as a refuge for tens of thousands of Somalis over the years, but recently the increasing numbers are straining the resources of the UN refugee agency.
Somali Refugees: Ethiopian CampsPlay video

Somali Refugees: Ethiopian Camps

Increasing numbers of Somali refugees in Ethiopia are stretching the resources of the UN refugee agency.