In response to the growing number of interally displaced persons due to inter-communal violence, a rapid response plan has been lunched, requesting US$25.5 million to address the most pressing needs in the health, nutrition, education, WaSH, non-food item, protection and agriculture sectors. The Plan exclusively focuses on response to recent violence-induced displacements in Benishangul Gumuz region and in East and West Wollega zones of Oromia region – which saw a surge of nearly 250,000 displaced persons since September 2018.
This three-months Operational Plan is developed in view of bridging the period between now and the official launch of the 2019 Humanitarian and Disaster Resilience Plan (HDRP), where needs and requirements for the Benishangul Gumuz-East/West Wollega response will be captured in full.
Under its new leadership, Ethiopia has been undergoing significant political, civic and human rights reforms since April 2018. However, the still fragile political transition is not without challenge. Of most significance is the inter-communal violence being reported in various pockets of the country, leading to mass internal displacements, civilian deaths and injuries. While these areas have always been hotspots of inter-communal tensions, the scale and frequency of the violence seen in recent months are unprecedented. At least 1.4 million people were displaced by conflict in 2018, of which nearly 1 million were in Gedeo-West Guji alone. This brings the total number of displaced people in the country to at least 2.8 million out of which 82 per cent are conflict-induced IDPs and the remaining 18 per cent are climate-induced IDPs.
Last July, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) had released US$15 million to scale up humanitarian assistance to people affected by the escalating violence. The allocation enabled humanitarian partners to scale up life-saving assistance in support of the Government-led response.
One of the newest waves of violence and displacement occurred following an incident where four high-ranking Benishangul Gumuz state officials were ambushed and killed in Oromia, near the regional boundary, on 26 September 2018. Subsequently, inter-communal violence erupted in Kamashi zone (Benishangul Gumuz region) between the Gumuz community and the ethnic Oromo and Amhara population residing in the area. This resulted in displacement, deaths, injuries and damage of public infrastructure. Security forces were deployed to prevent the escalation of violence, but Kamashi zone (the epicenter of the violence) and Oda woreda in Assosa zone remain inaccessible for humanitarian actors due to insecurity, except with armed escort or via helicopter.
Given the highly volatile situation and access constraints, the exact number of people displaced has yet to be verified. However, it is estimated that at least 250,000 people are displaced inside Benishangul Gumuz region (15,000 in Oda woreda, Assosa zone and 42,000 in Kamashi zone) and across the border in Oromia region (101,000 in East Wollega zone and 81,000 in West Wollega zone). Some of the internally displaced are reportedly living with host communities, while others are sheltered in collective sites, mainly in Government buildings and schools.
As innocent civilians continue to be esponsentially affected by the crisis, a multi-sectoral response is scaling up, but humanitarian access is urgently required to reach stranded communities in Kamashi zone and Oda woreda, Assosa zone.
Photos: Oromia Region/OCHA/Tinago Chikoto