Operational background

In Ethiopia, UNHCR is currently protecting and providing assistance to four distinctive population groups, namely: Somali refugees to the east; Sudanese refugees to the west; Eritreans to the north; and small number of urban refugees and asylum seekers in Addis Abeba and in its surroundings, in the central highland region of the country.


Among all major refugee population groups in Ethiopia, a positive development is in progress for the Sudanese. After more than 20 years of civil conflicts, the peace accord in 2005 between the Government of Sudan in the north and the southern region has finally made possible the return of refugees to their homeland. UNHCR Ethiopia is currently busy assisting those Sudanese refugees who wish to repatriate in organised convoys from its five western camps. On the other hand, the prospect of durable solutions for Eritreans and Somalis are not as bright. The political situation in Eritrea does not allow the safe return of its minority groups, and the tension if anything is even mounting.


As for Somali refugees, those who originated from Somalia’s north-west region (so-called 'Somaliland') and north-east region (so-called 'Puntland') have repatriated to their respective homelands, as those regions have seen visible progress in stabilisation. More than 500,000 Somalis had left Ethiopia through the UNHCR-assisted multi-year repatriation programme by the end of 2005, and consequently, UNHCR has been able to close down 7 of 8 original refugee camps it had cared for since 1991.


Unfortunately, however, the ongoing violent confrontation between the Islamic Court Union (ICU) and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) renders the south-central region of Somalia extremely unstable. It is even producing fresh refugees into Ethiopia, especially since the takeover of the capital by ICU forces in June 2006 and the subsequent retake of Mogadishu by TFG in December 2006, backed by the Ethiopian military. Presently, more than 16,000 registered Somalis reside in Kebribeyah camp, the last remaining Somali refugee camp in Ethiopia, while more than 8,000 freshly displaced Somalis have arrived in the region, seeking UNHCR’s assistance. To accommodate the latter, UNHCR plans to reopen an old camp, Tefer Ber, some 120 km away from Kebribeyah camp.

Beneficiary profile

The present profile of Somali refugees in eastern Ethiopia is 49% male and 51% female, of whom children under 18 years old constitute about 60%. In terms of clan composition, the majority belong to the Merihan, Awlian, Majerteen and Darod clans followed by Hawiye. These clans originated from south-central Somalia where security is still a problem, and they will remain in asylum until the situations in their places of origin have stabilized. Homogeneity in clan composition, religion, language and culture has made their acceptance and continued asylum in Ethiopia and in the local community relatively easy.


The majority of the refugee population is of rural origin with a pastoral economic base. The refugees have no direct access to formal employment, apart from the few employed by UNHCR and its partners. They officially have no access to land, other than the small plots inside the camp they are given for erecting their tukuls (traditional huts).


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UNHCR Ethiopia, which is represented by a Regional Liaison Office in Addis Abeba, has a field office in Jijiga in eastern Ethiopia. Under Water Sector, UNHCR Field Office Jijiga, through its staff and UN Volunteers, will closely collaborate with a governmental entity, ARRA (Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs), and the Jijiga Water Supply Office, its main implementing partner for water sector.


UNHCR Regional Liaison Office Addis Abeba, Ethiopia

UNHCR RLO will provide guidance on policy issues. UNHCR RLO will also be responsible for the overall monitoring and logistical backup support services such as harbour clearing, handling, storage and transportation of internationally procured items. It will take out comprehensive insurance coverage for the project vehicles. Furthermore, RLO will procure pipes and fittings for the Jarar Valley water supply system.


UNHCR Field Office Jijiga (2 international staff and 9 local staff)

FOJ, in coordination with RLO Addis Abeba, will oversee all project implementation, monitor activities and handle the onward transport of project goods from the UNHCR warehouse in Jijiga to the Kebribeyah refugee camp/Jarar Valley areas. It will also ensure the provision of fuel, oil and lubricants to the Jarar Valley water supply system in lieu of the water fees for the refugees. Furthermore, FOJ will be responsible for monitoring the road maintenance between Kebribeyah and Jarar Valley.


Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA):

On behalf of the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, ARRA will be responsible for the provision of staff security and protection, camp management and inter-agency coordination. ARRA undertakes responsibility for the maintenance of the water distribution points located in the refugee site, and cleaning of water tanks in Kebribeyah refugee camp.


Jijiga Water Supply Office (JWSO)

JWSO, a government office in charge of the supply of water for Jijiga town, will be responsible for completion of the remaining assignments at Jarar valley, such as the installation of pumps, generators and cables. It also maintains and rehabilitates boreholes in the Jarar Valley and Jijga areas as well as the pipelines for efficient running of water supply.


United Nations Volunteers (UNV)

UNDP Ethiopia deploys two National UNVs under UNHCR Jijiga. They have been involved in supporting the Kebribeyah administration and community to enable them to manage the Jarar Valley water supply system since January 2007. They will assist the Kebribeyah Water Desk in setting up effective management system for the Jarar Valley water supply system.


Implementation strategy

UNHCR will streamline its programme in line with the planned eventual exit strategy for the operation in eastern Ethiopia. To ensure sustainability of the activities undertaken in the project areas, the regional line ministries concerned have been involved from the onset in the design, planning and implementation of sector activities, with a great emphasis on capacity-building as part of the UNHCR exit strategy.


Efforts will be made to bring in operational and/or development agencies to implement reintegration and rehabilitation projects, following the eventual closure of the camp. In this regard, UN agencies, regional organizations, international and national NGOs will also be encouraged to participate and contribute to the planning and implementation of sectoral activities not only for the proposed water sector, but also for other sectors such as education, income generation, environmental awareness, rehabilitation and protection, as well as skills training for the refugees and the host communities.