Poverty and Migration

Conflict over land and borders have forced more than 2.8 million people in Ethiopia to flee their homes to other parts of the country. Adbi Abbas and his family left everything behind when they fled Somaliland. They arrived in Deder in Ethiopia’s eastern region with 7,800 other internally displaced persons. The influx of people into Deder overwhelmed the local government and the host community.

“It was beyond our capacity,” says Azmera Negasa, deputy district administrator and director of the Disaster Risk Management Office. “People were living in our office compounds, schools, and abandoned warehouses.”

Adbi, his wife Saro, and their children lived in an open warehouse with 500 other displaced people. There was no bathroom, access to clean water, or privacy to be able to care for their small children. All 500 people were sleeping inside the large hall during the night and cooking and surviving in the same place during the day. The school-aged children had not attended school since the disputes started and their families lacked money to buy school uniforms and supplies.

Understanding the importance of meeting basic needs, while also restoring dignity and encouraging social cohesion among those forced from their homes, Catholic Relief Services took a holistic approach to humanitarian relief.

CRS hired skilled carpenters from within the displaced population to help construct homes. In addition to shelter, CRS programs repaired water systems, provided health, sanitation and hygiene items, and offered nutrition supplements to children and pregnant mothers. CRS also piloted one of the first cash transfer programs in displaced persons response, which means that people received cash directly and could prioritize what they needed most, providing greater freedom and dignity.

“I used the cash to buy clothes for my two children—and this,” says Adbi, pointing to the bed and blanket in the corner.

Today, Adbi and Saro say their greatest hope is for their children to continue their schooling. “We are approaching a year since we’ve been displaced. Our children haven’t gone to school. Our immediate need is to have financial support to send our children to school,” says Adbi.

Adbi, Saro, and thousands of other displaced families have a long way to go. But with day-to-day survival worries behind them, the future they plan is for their children.

What Your Advocacy Means for Migrants and Refugees:

Last year, we spoke out in support of a critical bill for refugee girls overseas—The Protecting Girls’ Access to Education in Vulnerable Settings Act. In fact, we made one, final push for the Senate to pass the bill in mid-December and it paid off! The Senate passed the bill right before Christmas, with the House then passing the Senate version. Just earlier this year, the President signed the bill into law which will mean that U.S. international programs that work with vulnerable girls around the world, like refugees, will promote access to education—helping to keep girls safe from human trafficking, early childhood marriage and forced labor!

In terms of our work to protect foreign aid in the FY2019federal budget, Congress recently finalized the budget and current funding levels for poverty-focused U.S. foreign aid.

Because of your action all year, just like in the FY2018 budget, Congress has protected and increased this critical funding that supports millions of people around the world, including refugees and migrants! The threats to cut this funding in the budget was real, but your consistent action made a difference.

As we begin to engage this new Congress, let’s continue to ensure we stand with our human family who have been forced to flee their homes and is in search of a safer and more dignified future.