Ethiopia has about 370 000 refugees in 2013, a number that has nearly doubled the last two years, mainly because of the conflicts in Somalia and South Sudan. Currently more than half of the refugees are from Somalia followed by South Sudan, Eritrea and various other neighbouring countries.
The Ethiopian state keeps its boarders open to all refugees but does not allow local integration; there is no way for refugees to obtain Ethiopian citizenship and they are not allowed to work. Refugees instead comes together in camps close to the boarders were they are supported by various humanitarian organisations.
Under specific circumstances refugees can be referred to the cities, mainly Addis Ababa, for a limited time. Most cases concern health problems and diseases that cannot be treated in the camps, other reasons can have to do with security or protection issues. This is where DICACs urban program comes in.
The DICAC Refugee and Returnee Support Program was established in 1972 following a tripartite agreement between the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF), the World Council of Churches (WCC) as well as the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Today the Refugee and Returnee Affairs Department (RRAD) is under the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC).
DICAC-RRAD focuses mainly on support to the about 2500 urban refugees in Addis Ababa. These refugees are very exposed since they do not necessarily speak the local language, often have different health problems and are not allowed to work.
DICAC’s objective is to help them to satisfy their basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing and medical treatment as well as give psycho-social support and follow up on their well being.
Many are entirely dependent on a small allowance DICAC gives every month as well as extra support for medication and, in specific cases, nourishment.
An important part of DICAC’s work also revolves around health issues since many of the refugees in the urban program have major health problems. DICAC offers counselling, oversees treatments as well as provides preventive awareness raising trainings. To this end DICAC employs specialized staff for example working with mother & child health, chronic diseases, HIV/AIDS, disabilities, mental health, gender based violence etc.
When it comes to education DICAC is responsible for secondary education in the refugee camps, a vast but important undertaking. Recently the organisation also started a vocational training program in the eastern and southern camps. Moreover the department also facilitates and supports urban refugee children to attend Ethiopian schools from pre-school until the end of secondary school.
In overall DICAC-RRAD employs 54 persons at its head quarters in Addis Ababa and another 135 for its educational activities in the camps. All work is done in close cooperation with the UNHCR, the government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs ARRA and the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS).
Refugees in Ethiopia have no legal way to citizenship and are not allowed to work. The urban refugees are therefore dependent on a monthly subsistence allowance that is provided by DICAC. The amount of the allowance depends on the family size and should cover food, housing, clothes and other needs. The living costs in Addis Ababa are high though and refugees struggle to get the money to be sufficient until the end of the month.
In addition to the monthly allowance DICAC also provides medicines, hospital costs, a specific bedding allowance and special nourishment for some of the sick. Every year DICAC also provides a onetime extra clothing assistance to all urban refugees whose cases are active at the time including their dependants.
To help refugees get their basic needs (food, shelter, clothing and medication) and follow up their social well being.
To enable refugees to become either skilled middle level or professional workers through education and training.
To support and rehabilitate refugees and returnees to lead their normal life.
To advocate for durable solution of refugee and displaced people.
Refugee Education from KG to High School level.
Vocational skill training for displaced nationals and refugees (both camp and urban).
Income Generation activities for refugees through revolving fund Scheme.
Facilitate the living medication and other basic needs of urban refugees.
Afforestation and self sustained development activities on refugee devastated areas.
Capacitate the community through peace building and advocacy works.