Struggling to Make a Living in Ethiopia

Somali Refugees in EthiopiaBy Jina Krause-Vilmar

Food is scarce in Ethiopia, where most of the population lives in rural, drought-prone areas in a state of chronic poverty. In 2010, the Government of Ethiopia identified 5.2 million people in need of emergency food aid. Not surprisingly, this hunger crisis also impacts the thousands of refugees living just within Ethiopia’s borders.

In the isolated eastern corner of Ethiopia, some 44,000 Somali refugees are scattered among four refugee camps, living in the arid heat on parched land. Most of these refugees survive on one meal a day and are dependent on humanitarian aid to meet their most basic needs. Over the years it has become clear that the aid just isn’t enough. Families are routinely forced to exchange food rations for other staples, such as medicine, school clothes and firewood for cooking. With no reliable source of income, families face difficult choices.

Most host countries do not grant refugees the right to work, and Ethiopia is no different. As a result, refugees are pushed into working in the informal economy where the risk of exploitation and abuse is far greater — particularly for women and girls. In camps like Aw Barre and Sheder, which are far from local markets, families often send their daughters to work as live-in domestic servants. This is dangerous work for the girls, as they have no protection from their families or the law.

Full Story HuffingtonPost (Struggling to Make a Living in Ethiopia: Surviving in the Informal Economy)



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