In the wave of historic reforms that have swept Ethiopia this year, the needs of the country’s displaced people must not be forgotten, the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Friday on a visit to the country.
More people were newly internally displaced in Ethiopia as a result of violence than anywhere else in the world in 2018, but reforms are pointing the country in a positive direction. Following the invitation of authorities, the ICRC is expanding its operations to Somali Regional State, an area with widespread displacement.
“We are very happy to be returning to Somali Regional State after 11 years of absence. We are also encouraged by signals that Ethiopia will commit more strongly to human rights. The cycle of violence and displacement today in Ethiopia, however, presents a massive humanitarian challenge and steps need to be taken to lessen tensions and facilitate assistance to reach those in need,” ICRC President Peter Maurer said during a visit to the country.
The ratification of the Kampala Convention, a ground-breaking treaty and the world’s first legally binding instrument on internal displacement, is a step the government could take in addressing the needs of its internally displaced.
It is not just Ethiopia but all African Union member states that should ratify and implement the Convention. Today 28 of the 55 African Union member states are yet to ratify it. The issue is timely for the AU, which declared 2019 the African Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons.
In addition to Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan were all among the 10 countries most affected by internal displacement from conflict and violence in the first half of 2018.
“The treaty will only make a real difference in the lives of displaced people if African countries commit to the obligations within it and take action on the ground,” Maurer said.
In Ethiopia, the ICRC works with the Ethiopia Red Cross Society to distribute emergency relief items to the displaced, provide clean drinking water and reconnect separated family members. The ICRC also works in places of detention to improve living conditions and promote humane treatment of detainees. It also provides physical rehabilitation services for people living with disabilities. The ICRC has a separate delegation in Addis Ababa dedicated entirely to the African Union.
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