ADDIS ABABA - IOM, the International Organization for Migration, and NRC, the Norwegian Refugee Council, are delivering essential aid to over 23,500 migrants in Ethiopia who have recently returned to the country due to COVID-19.
More than 17,000 of the returnees came home via land crossings, mainly from Djibouti, Somalia, and Sudan. For some returnees these are destination countries where they go to seek employment, yet for many others these are transit countries on the perilous journey east to the Arab Peninsula, or north to Europe via North Africa.
All recent returnees are being accommodated at quarantine facilities in regional towns.
The migrants, who have returned from countries stretching from as far away as the United States and India, are living in more than 30 COVID-19 quarantine centers, most converted from schools and university campuses spread across the country by Ethiopia's federal government.
The IOM-NRC partnership is designed to bring resources and expertise together to respond to the urgent needs of vulnerable migrants, including minors, pregnant women, and mothers.
IOM Ethiopia is specializing in coordinating the national response and supporting the management of quarantine sites while the NRC brings expertise related to resource mobilization.
The partnership has so far generated the supply and delivery of 62,000 hygiene items, 10,000 blankets and 5,000 sleeping mats, 5,000 washing basins and other basic but essential items to thousands of vulnerable migrants who have returned to Ethiopia since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Many of the migrants have been arriving in Ethiopia with only the clothes on their backs, with few or no other possessions. More than 50,000 cooking utensils have been provided to equip quarantine facilities.
"Together with our partners at IOM, we have been able to respond to the needs of returning migrants," said Eyob Yisfawossen, NRC's Area Manager in Jigjiga. "The situation at the regional quarantine centers is dire, to say the least and the need for essential items such as clothes, sanitary items, and bedding, is immediate."
The assistance is being provided in Shire, Metema, Dire Dawa, Jigjiga, and Semera, the five regional towns, where many of the migrants enter the country on foot and by bus.
"We had several challenges with provision of services in the quarantine center at the start of the pandemic," explained Addis Alem, the Dire Dawa University quarantine center manager. "With the supplies we're receiving from NRC, IOM and others, the quarantine center is now fully operational and able to meet the needs of vulnerable groups." Said Maureen Achieng, IOM Ethiopia Chief of Mission: "COVID-19 has tested the capacity of existing quarantine facilities. The upswing in the number of cases has necessitated the designation of additional institutions for quarantining purposes, all of which require support. It is, therefore, critical that we forge partnerships that will ensure prompt action in support of vulnerable groups, including returning migrants."
To ensure returning migrants get the support they need, IOM is playing a pivotal role in coordinating the COVID-19 response activities of up to 15 UN agencies and 25 international and donor organizations, working together with the Government of Ethiopia.
From distributing essential items such as medications, Personal Protective Equipment, and sanitary products donated by IOM and partners, to supporting disease surveillance, WASH, and child protection, IOM continues to work with multiple partners to deliver support to returning migrants.