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Djibouti: Deputy Humanitarian Chief meets with climate refugees and migrants

03 Oct 2019


ASG Mueller meets with migrants fleeing Ethiopia in search of better prospects in Saudi Arabia. Credit: Saviano Abreu/UNOCHA

Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Ursula Mueller is in Djibouti to draw attention to the devastating humanitarian impact of climate change in Djibouti and the wider region. Economic volatility, widespread poverty, coupled with repeat droughts and occasional flash floods, have caused severe water shortages and widespread hunger in Djibouti. Currently almost one in three people in Djibouti are food-insecure. 

On her way to Bondara village where the World Food Programme runs a school-feeding programme for drought-affected children, Ms. Mueller came across a group of young migrants from Ethiopia’s Oromia region. They were making the dangerous journey towards the Arabian Peninsula in search of work.

A 20-year-old woman mentioned that her dream is to find a job as a maid in Saudi Arabia, and is risking her life in search of a better opportunity. Djibouti is a major migration route, with 400 to 600 migrants crossing daily, fleeing conflict, hardship and intolerable climatic conditions in neighbouring countries.

ASG Mueller with a 20-year-old woman from Ethiopia who is willing to risk her life to find work as a maid in Saudi Arabia. Credit: Saviano Abreu/UNOCHA

Djibouti also hosts over 30,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from Somalia and Ethiopia, but also from Eritrea and Yemen. Half of them are children. In Ali Addeh refugee village, where the harsh climate makes daily life difficulty community representatives told Ms. Mueller while their emergency needs were being met, they were desperate to earn a living and become self-reliant.

“Vulnerable people in Djibouti desperately need sustained emergency assistance, but they also need development investors to help provide durable livelihood solutions,” said Ms. Mueller. “At the same time more investment is needed to help Djibouti adapt to climate change. Countries like Djibouti suffer the most from climate change while contributing to it the least.”