“We have impoverished each other”: the depletion of resources for  host communities and the dilemma of durable solution for the IDPs in the Konso Zone and the Benishangul-Gumuz Region of Ethiopia

Ethiopia set a world record for internally displaced people (IDPs) two times (in 2018 and 2021) in three years. As of March 2022, an estimated 5,582,000 persons were displaced within the country due to armed conflicts and natural disasters. Konso Zone situated in Southern Nations Nationalities and peoples Region (SNNPRS) and Benishangul-Gumuz Regional State (BGRS) are among the regions badly affected by conflict and displacement. About one hundred thousand of Konso zones’ three hundred thousand population, and about five hundred thousand of the BGRS roughly one million population have been displaced mainly due to conflict[1]. These IDPs have been hosted either in temporary collective centres, in towns or temporarily integrated in the hosting communities in the rural areas. In most of these areas, host communities have provided the IDPs with essential life sustaining supports for months until the humanitarian organisations intervened. After years of handing out from their scarce resources, however, these communities in both Konso and BGRS have complained that their resources have depleted and regardless of their empathy towards the IDPs, the situation has caused their impoverishment as well. Our informant in Konso stated:

In the beginning I had grain. We shared and consumed what I had together [with the IDPs]. Then, support from the government arrived [for the IDPs]… Now I also need support from the government. We have impoverished each other.

The host community is feeling the fatigue of hosting the IDPs. On top of this, disputes arise between the host community and the IDPs because of the competition over firewood, competition over daily labour market, inflation of prices, shortages of water supply services, shortages and increasing costs of health care services and medicines for which the host accuse the IDPs. This calls for two intertwined things: extending emergency supports to the host community and contemplating the durable solutions.

Durable solutions to the current displacement situations in Ethiopia are complex. The most important feature of the displacement is that it affects people not only because they just happened to be in the conflict areas; but also, they  label each other as ‘Others’ or ‘outsiders’. When conflicts start, certain categories of people primarily defined along ethnic lines, come under target, and forced to flee the areas they had lived in for decades. The Oromo have been displaced from Somali Regional State and BGRS; the Somali have been displaced from Oromia; the Amhara have been displaced from BGRS and Oromia; the Konso displaced from Alle and Dirashe districts etc. In this situation, return to places of origin has become difficult as the displacees are considered ‘outsiders’. The conflicts that caused the displacements are also in most cases going on complicating the return. Local integration and resettlement in other areas are also challenging in most cases due to shortage of land for the settlers, the size of the IDPs that is too big to accommodate and the ethnic identity related issues.

 “I do not want to see my children resettling in another new area where they may remain landless. Therefore, given the security situation is improved, we want return to our home in …”

This extract from an interview with a mother of seven who was displaced from Oromia and hosted at Bambassi IDPs collective centre in BGRS shows that the IDPs see return to their places of origin is still more viable than the other two alternatives. Thus, we recommend re-targeting of displacement impact-oriented multi-sectoral programs and projects at both IDP host areas and return places including reconciliations, livelihood support, reconstruction of shelters and public infrastructures, continuous dialogue, and peace education that will support the endeavour to find durable solutions to IDPs.

[1] BGRS DRMC August 2022.

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