Thousands of Somali refugees have trekked to Ethiopia to flee the devastating drought in their country.
Already in the grip of instability and resurgent violence, Somalia is experiencing its worst drought in seven years. The vast majority of those fleeing come from the regions of Bay, Gedo and Middle Juba, where most families raise livestock or make their living from tilling the land.
The UNHCR estimates the number of Somalis that have fled to Ethiopia to stand at 4,300, with hundreds of thousands others internally displaced.
“People are arriving hungry. A significant number of the children and mothers are malnourished,” says Sandra Harlass, Senior Health Officer for in Ethiopia for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.
“It’s a very fragile situation which needs urgent attention to save lives,” she added.
Somalia is the fourth largest refugee crisis in the world. More than 1.4 million Somalis are living in exile, many for decades. The majority are hosted by countries in the region. Ethiopia alone hosts over 245,000 Somali refugees. With the emergence of another potential crisis in Somalia, regional leaders are calling for a more comprehensive international response for Somali refugees.
On March 25, the member states of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, or IGAD, meet with the international community and other stakeholders for a summit in Nairobi, Kenya. The aim is to lead a comprehensive regional approach to facilitate durable solutions for Somali refugees and strengthen the protection environment in host countries.