Wednesday, April 22, 2015

'Invisible' Emergency in Ethiopia

Naomi Steer Ethiopian Mission - April 2015

A few weeks ago I visited the Gambella region of Ethiopia which over the last year has seen more than 195,000 refugees from South Sudan flee across the border.

This is one of the many ‘invisible’ emergencies UNHCR is dealing with at any one time. It is surprising that that there is little or no media coverage of what is one of the largest refugee crises in Africa today. In fact, Ethiopia is now hosting the largest refugee population in Africa with 700,000 refugees. And with only 10% of its operations funded, UNHCR needs much more support.

I had heard about the dire situation for refugees in the camps in Gambella when the emergency first began back in 2013. This was compounded by a very harsh environment (the week my visit temperatures were averaging 45 degrees). There is lack of amenities and many of the newly arriving refugees are malnourished and in generally poor condition. 

While the situation remains difficult, I was amazed at what my UNHCR colleagues and partners had managed to achieve despite the undeniable challenges.

On the day I flew in from Addis Ababa, there was an unseasonal break in the high temperatures. Rain clouds hovered but a torrential downpour only came on the last night making travel the next day tricky.
When the rain comes, large parts of the Gambella region, which extends across a swampy flood plain, become submerged. Last year two large refugee camps - Leitchuor and Nip Nip - were overwhelmed by flooding. This year, to avoid a repeat of the disaster, UNHCR is embarking on an ambitious plan to transport 50,000 refugees settled in the most vulnerable areas to higher grounds. It’s a race against time and UNHCR with its Ethiopian government partner ARRA are mobilising every conceivable form of transport including boats, helicopters and trucks, to relocate refugees to a new refugee camp JEWI ( pronounced Jowie) which has been carved out of the bush 12 kilometres from Gambella town.

Pagak Border Transit Centre

On arrival I go straight to the South Sudan/Ethiopian border crossing at Pagak. It is here that thousands of refugees crossed over when tensions between the South Sudanese President and his Deputy sent the country into civil war at the end of December 2013.

At the Pagak Border Transit Centre I sit down to talk with new arrivals who are about to be registered by UNHCR. Nyatiang Emok Dey tells me she had walked for seven days from her village in Upper Nile State with her three young children. She describes the trip to me as ‘very terrible’ and you can see the exhaustion in the bodies and faces of the young family. She is one of the thousands of mothers who have fled South Sudan. In fact 90% of the camps I visit over the next few days are made up of women and children.

Sitting quietly beside Nyatiang is an old woman who could be anything from 50 to 80 years old. It is hard to tell but her rheumy eyes have clearly seen years of hardship. Nyayul Chol doesn’t know her age. She tells me she arrived with her grandson after travelling by truck and then walking the rest of the way. She looks so frail I wonder how she managed. Once in the camp she will be issued with a package for the elderly – a special ration of maize, a commode, extra cooking utensils, mattress, extra blankets and crutches (if necessary) and eye glasses. 

Nyayul is one of the many elderly people I meet in the camp. This strikes me as unusual as often older people will stay back in the village despite the dangers. But it appears that everyone is upping stumps from the hardest hit South Sudanese states of Unity, Upper Nile and Jonglei. These new arrivals will be taken to either Kule or Tierkidi camps not far along the road.

Kule Camp

We travel that road to Kule camp ourselves with a steady stream of locals herding their cattle or selling local produce. Kule is home to about 47,000 refugees, most of whom arrived after a second wave of violence hit South Sudan in May 2014. My first meeting is with community leaders elected by their fellow refugees to voice their concerns and needs. They list food as their number one priority followed by shelter, education, livelihoods and SGBV prevention.

The women leaders give firsthand accounts of being attacked collecting firewood outside the camp or taking their maize and wheat grain to the nearby ‘shanty’ town to be milled. There is a primary school but no secondary school. Umjimma Abdahado, a 43-year-old mother of seven, suggests the need for a ‘women’s friendly school’ so women can also learn to read and write - a sign of the social changes resulting from displacement. Back home in South Sudan, men would be more literate and would handle ‘outside business’. Here, with so many husbands or fathers absent, women are having to take on new roles and need to be literate to do so.

Nyakhor: the very name symbolises the ongoing cycle of violence South Sudan has experienced. Nyakhor means ‘child of war’. Thirty-five years after being born in conflict she now sadly sees her own children becoming ‘children of war’. Nyakhor however is determined that the time in refugee camps won’t be a wasted opportunity for her family. ”We will not sit simply like blind men or women but we will do something,” she tells me.

There is certainly no ‘sitting still’ in the child friendly space funded by UNHCR and run by partner Plan Ethiopia. The under 5 ‘safe place to play’ is a hive of activity with kids turning out amazing Lego constructions: bridges, supply trucks and wheels. Most of the staff  are also refugees and they are glad of the small income this work provides. 

There are so many unaccompanied children here who have become separated from their parents during the fighting. They are fostered out to relatives or other families and receive a special package of Non Food Items including clothes, blankets, books and school supplies. I hand over some basketballs and soccer balls which are quickly swept up by the kids in a fast and furious game on the rocky ground.

Nutrition Centre

Next stop is the Nutrition Centre run by NGO partner GOAL Program. Myamal Galwak sits quietly in the Outpatient Therapeutic Clinic nursing her nine month old baby who is contentedly sucking on a sachet of peanut based high protein Ready-To-Use-Food called Plumpy’nut – all the while giving loving smiles to mum and coy ones to me

The staff say this tiny but healthy girl was at death’s door two months ago when she arrived in the camp severely malnourished and sick with watery diarrhoea. After being put on an intensive feeding program she has gained weight and is on the road to recovery.

Adequate nutrition is a big issue here and high levels of malnutrition persist. Last year UNHCR and WFP mounted an extraordinary appeal calling for help to fund feeding needs for displaced people inside South Sudan and for refugees like the people I am meeting now. Australian donors through Australia for UNHCR responded by donating over $600,000 in support. Across Gambella the very high rate of Crude and Under 5 Mortality rates have been reduced to acceptable levels largely due to the efforts of UNHCR and its partners managing diseases such as malaria, dehydration secondary to diarrhoea and complications of severe malnutrition.

Tierkidi Refugee Camp

Shelter is another big need. Standing on the hill looking out over Tierkidi refugee camp I see the neatly ordered rows of tents stretch out below me. Despite being here for more than nine months, 85% of the camp still ‘lives under canvas’. With the average tent life only six months, upgrading accommodation is really urgent and I am hoping Australia for UNHCR can provide support in this area. 

I visit a family in one of the transitional shelters with bamboo walls, mud daubing and a thatched roof based on the traditional village home called the 'tukel’. It is surprisingly cool inside and Nyakong Loung Louy has somehow managed to create a welcoming home for her family. A table holds neatly stacked cooking pots and dainty tea glasses. Sleeping mats hung over a roof beam. Nyakong tells me she comes from Bor, ‘a proper town’ where her husband had a good job working with NGOs. Her 16-year-old daughter, Nyaku, arrived here at the camp before her. Believing she would never see her family again, she tells me, she was overwhelmed when she was reunited with her mother. 'I couldn’t believe I would see her again. I thought she might have died. But when I saw her standing there I was overwhelmed and thanked God. You think you will be separated but then you come together again,' she still says with disbelief and amazement in her voice. 

RADA Rehabilitation Centre

If I need any further evidence of the resilience of refugees here and the commitment of UNHCR and its partners to do their best, my last stop confirms it. We arrive at the RADA Rehabilitation Centre. Inside, a number of disabled men are exercising with great purpose on stationary bikes, treadmills and a bench press.

Enoch Dak is the Chair of the Committee for Disability. The 21-year-old comes from the Upper Nile. Disabled from the age of two by polio, Enoch appears very small in his wheelchair. However, after I strike up a conversation with him, he is very engaged and emanates a huge determination and spirit. He tells me after his village was attacked, he fled with his aunt and her 7 children. At first he wheeled himself in his tricycle wheelchair along the dirt road. He then got a punctured tyre and the family was unable to push him in the mud. His aunt and cousins then carried him for five days. He says they saw no other transport in all that time.

Arriving at Pagak with thousands of other refugees at the height of the emergency, Enoch spent 21 days living without any support facilities. As newly elected Chair of the Disability Committee he is working with UNHCR and other partners to improve conditions for the many disabled in the camp, including latrines with room enough for commodes, more wheelchairs and crutches. 

For Bol Gatkuoth, this is the second time he has become a refugee. He spent his youth in a refugee camp where he says he got his education at both primary and secondary school. Returning  to South Sudan in 2009, he started working with the rehabilitation of child solders but then war broke out again and he fled with his young family, first to the UN Compound in Malakal, South Sudan and then on foot across the border. On the way his young child died from dysentery.

It is almost unimaginable to me how this smart young man still has any optimism after what he has endured but Bol tells me 'you have to look to the future'. Facing perhaps many more years in exile, he hopes to get a scholarship to enable him to undertake a Masters in Social Work so he can help people.

A number of the disabled men I met were victims of disease but there were others like 19-year-old Gatiwal who lost his right leg after being shot in the conflict back in South Sudan. UNHCR and RADA helped him get a prosthetic leg fitted in Addis Ababa. Gatiwal tells me the fitting rubs against the smashed bone in his upper thigh but he says stoically that ‘I am proud now to be standing on two legs again’.

I feel quite humbled by the strength of those I have met - both refugees and aid workers. When I apologise for only being able to bring a few footballs, one of the staff kindly admonishes me. ‘What you (Australia for UNHCR) have given is not a little thing, it’s a great contribution. And it’s more than funds or balls. You coming here make us feel that someone is looking after us. It’s not a minor thing.’ 


  1. I am so ashamed of the Australian government's attitude to refugees and its priority of making war rather than giving aid to people in need because of war etc.

  2. I am wondered! Really, when world seems to go crazy with all its wars, it turns out that there are people who’re still doing good things. This is awesome to realize that you can participate in this in order to make these people’s life better. I read at customwritings testimonials that all we do reflects on out fate. Maybe that’s true.

  3. Thanks for sharing, nice post!

    Chia sẻ các bạn Kawasaki z1000 giá bao nhiêu với kiểu dáng tuyệt đẹp hay cách chữa ong đốt hiệu quả nhất tại nhà bạn nên biết hay 094 là mạng gì và các số tổng đài liên quan hay 0126 là mạng nào và tổng đài MobiFone hỗ trợ khách hàng hay chia sẻ làm sao để biết người ấy thích mình để biết người ta có thật lòng thích mình hay không hay ý nghĩa của các con số trong điện thoại nói lên điều gì rất thú vị hay tác dụng của lá vối trong việc chữa bệnh cực hữu hiệu hay những bài hát tiếng Anh hay nhất mọi thời đại nghe là nghiền có thể bạn chưa biết hay chia sẻ các bạn cách tự nhuộm tóc tại nhà cực đẹp tự nhiên hay rửa mặt bằng nước vo gạo có ăn nắng không hay chia sẻ các bạn cách làm đẹp từ nước vo gạo với cách rửa mặt bằng nước vo gạo đúng cách hay chia sẻ các mẹ cách hướng dẫn cách tắm nắng cho trẻ sơ sinh đúng cách nhất hay ý nghĩa các loài hoa trong cuộc sống đầy thú vị hay thắc mắc của các mẹ là trẻ sơ sinh có nên uống nước hay không có tốt cho trẻ hay không hay sữa mẹ để ngoài được bao lâu có tốt không hay những bộ phim ma hay nhất mọi thời đại bạn ko nên bỏ qua hay bùa yêu có thật không và những cây chuyện bùa yêu có thật.

  4. Thanks for sharing your info. I really appreciate your efforts and I will be waiting for your further write

  5. خدمات جديدة يمكنك متابعتها من خلال شركة ركن البيت التي تقدم اعمال متميزة في مدن جديدة ومتخصصة في مجال النظافة مثل شركة تنظيف بالجبيل
    التي لديها لنظافة جميع المباني والمنشأت بواسطة عمالة متميزة ولديك ايضا شركة تنظيف بالاحساء
    التي تقدم خدمات اساسية يتطلبها جميع العملاء مثل نظافة الموكيت والسجاد والشقق والفلل فتحقيق خدمات النظافة المنزلية لن تجدها الا معنافي ركن البيت بواسطة العمالة المميزة التي تمتلكها والاليات التي تسادهم في ذلك اليك خدمة ايضا النظافة في مدينة القطيف عندما تبحث عن شركة تنظيف بالقطيف
    ستجد خدمات شركتنا امامك تحقق لك كل متطلبات النظافة التي ترغب فيها

  6. good you have used. All these functions come in a small package of 10MN. vShare Download You include to make an effort the second technique nice.

  7. good Produce good friends with various other users around the community, download you tv player apk the application cannot end up being set up on your iOS system. nice.

  8. Very well the net is certainly all you want. You could download you tv player apk Cartoon HD etc can liven up your iPhone and iPad. nice.

  9. It’s finally happening – Nike Sportswear will be releasing a Triple Black Flyknit Racer in the near future. Nike Flyknit Racer Fans of the running silhouette turned lifestyle staple have been begging for the “Triple Black” aesthetic to land on the Nike Flyknit Racer for quite some time, and NSW doesn’t disappoint thanks to an all black midsole and outsole unit while the Kyrie 2 patented woven material flawlessly blends shades of Black and Anthracite to help the Swoosh branding faintly stand out on the side panel.The Nike Janoski Triple Black Flyknit Racer is scheduled to release on December 1st in Europe; a U.S. release date hasn’t been confirmed yet, although Nike Outlet a Black Friday release seems appropriate.
    Olive green is definitely in this fall in the sneaker world, as it seems like every KD shoes sneaker under the sun is getting its own muted green rendition. Now it appears that the Nike Air Force 1 Low will Lebron James Shose be no exception to the olive movement, with this new colorway sporting a ‘Cargo Khaki’ suede upper. The look stays traditional with Nike Air Max Outlet a classic two-tone color block in green suede with white accents for the Swooshes and midsoles. This excellent fall release of the Nike Flyknit Air Force 1 Low is arriving now at Nike Sportswear stocked shops like Sneaker Politics.
    Lately you’ve been seeing the LeBron Soldier Nike Yeezy 10 in all kinds of interesting makeups, like the Camo edition on NIKEiD, its own “Black Toe” colorway, and even a high-end Nike Air Max collaboration with John Elliott, but now the shoe gets back to basics with this latest new look we preview today in nothing Nike Shoes but Midnight Navy. The completely tonal colorway for the high-top and strapped-up Soldier 10 drapes the entire upper in dark blue that Nike Shox is then complemented with a blue-tinted clear outsole and reflective Swooshes. The Midnight Navy Soldier 10 drops at select Nike Basketball retailers Nike Outlet Store

  10. Great Vidmate for COMPUTER is the one of the very vidmatedownloadz Bluestack is the complimentary as well as most Fine.

  11. good Can be accessed in restricted countries like China. Aptoide for iOS Download is a little complicated job which can be accomplished best.

  12. Anyone who reads it will find it much knowledge.

  13. I recently came to know LG G6 Release Date to be somewhere in November 2017. Is it true?

  14. thank for your post, hope have many people can share for each other.
    In my web about card game, can you take care
    danh bai online
    chan online
    thank you so much.

  15. Good article and helpful
    Thank you for sharing, I'm suggesting some information about you: xem sao hạn nu 1971
    Please see the information I want to share: duong hon nhan cua nam gioi tuoi ty as same same cung hoang dao khong bao gio chun buoc any more

  16. While we have been burdened with expectations of a successful successor to the LG G6, we have been saying for some time that this new phone will be the one phone which will rule them all.
    LG has already been on a roll and we expect that the G7 will also be up to the mark. Want to know more about it? Check out this website LG G7

  17. You to play media documents from both local in Mac OS, iOS. You can avoid the above.

  18. Here we are providing complete latest version of Showbox App Download which is one of the best application developed by Lenovo which allows users to transfer files from one device to another and Kodi App Download even allows inter-platform file sharing system with the help of which you can easily share files from Android to iPhone, to PC and even Mac.

    Do you know what’s so special about this Kingroot APK app? It’s available for PC or Mac which helps you to transfer any kind of file from PC to Smartphone and vice versa. Play Store Download particular feature helps you to get rid from that old and conventional way of transferring files with USB Cable.

    Here I am going to provide you the SHAREit Download file which will help you to install this app into your Android device without play store. IMO Free Download App allows you to easily send media files like images, videos and docs with super fast speed.

    WhatsApp For PC can also change the General User Interference of the Kodi software using the highly advanced and easy to use Kik Download provided in the program. User’s community works on significant amount of skins and anyone can install or use these skins to get new look and personal UI.

  19. Many thanks for sharing this very diverse opinion post where each expert has no doubt shared his best knowledge on the topic. Have more success in your journey.
    guidance Online assignment help sydney service

  20. There are many things that one should include in immigration essays – all of which we are fully versed in. We are able to talk about the history of immigration, the impact that it has on society, the problems faced by immigrants and the economic cost that immigration can have. When it comes to an illegal immigration essay we are also able to mention the specific legal situation for a specific country, as well as able to make illegal immigration essays reflect both sides of the story – from the point of the illegal immigrant and from the point of the country they are trying to move to.

  21. Got a deadline around the corner? Professional assignment writing services can help you get the content you need fast without sacrificing its quality. Many students find it difficult to do a homework under pressure. You have to do a considerable amount of research, writing, and you need to take time to proofread and edit what you have written. When you lack good writing skills or simple understanding of your homework assignment, you may not be able to complete you content quickly with the quality that is expected by your instructor.

  22. At first sight, there is no visible emergency in the mountainous Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. Farmers and their oxen are working the land, children smile, and the first scanty rains fell a few days ago. But this is deceptive. Hundreds of thousands ... cheap-Dissertation writing service

  23. Stunning variables on a very basic level ordinarily easy to work. This would without a doubt of times critical by and by while a large number of us discover license you to leave on your site.
    Cisco customer support number

  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

  25. You might notice that on Scamfighter they place test orders with different sites to make sure that they have the most relevant information, and there is no place for mistakes. If you do not agree with their opinion, okay, go ahead and place the edubirdie review under their post or discuss it in their forum. An actual person manages the service and he can see all the complaints you submit, so he can send you an email or call you if you need his assistance. He hates guys who do that but, after all, no one can say that his reviews are fake!