IOM’s Strengthened COVID-19 Response Targets 46,000 Returning Ethiopian Migrants

Published Date: 
Thu, 09/23/2021

Addis Ababa – As thousands of migrants continue to return to Ethiopia, IOM is partnering with the European Union (EU), UNOPS and the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) to strengthen COVID-19 response for Ethiopia’s cross-border communities.      

Despite prevailing COVID-19 induced movement restrictions, close to 46,000 migrants have entered Ethiopia through border crossings since April 2020 when the pandemic began in the country. Many of these migrants are using difficult irregular routes to return home.

IOM is working to limit the impact of the pandemic as part of the EU-IGAD COVID-19 Response programme, which is mitigating the health and socioeconomic impact of the pandemic in seven countries - Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.       

“Reception centres at points of entry where returning migrants first arrive, as well as health facilities in border towns, require strengthened capacities to respond to the impact of the pandemic,” explains Malambo Moonga, Head of Migration Management at IOM Ethiopia.

“We must ensure the continuity of essential services for vulnerable migrants in these areas and safeguard their inclusion in COVID-19 response provisions.” 

IOM is delivering pharmaceutical supplies and disease surveillance equipment such as infrared thermometers, stethoscopes, and blood pressure apparatuses to selected quarantine centres. The project is also recruiting and deploying on-call nurses to strengthen provision of medical services for cross-border communities. 

Some migrants, having faced severe human rights abuses during  their grueling journeys and in transit and destination countries, require specialized psychosocial services before successfully reintegrating into their communities.  

In Moyale, Semera, Jigjiga, and Metema border towns, health professionals have been trained to screen migrants for mental illnesses, to provide counselling, and to make referrals for those requiring additional support.

“It’s important for us, as health professionals, to understand the specific stressors migrants returning into the country experience, including any anxieties brought about by undergoing quarantine in isolation. This is how we can afford them the appropriate mental health care,” says Azazhu Abate, a psychiatric expert at Moyale Hospital who is among those who have been trained by IOM’s mental health and psychosocial support specialists to provide special services to this group.

Training has also been provided to government officials from the Ministry of Women, Children, and Youth; Immigration; and the regional police to strengthen the management of the pandemic in border towns and to refer returning migrants to relevant care providers. 

The EU-funded programme is assisting vulnerable groups, including migrants, refugees, internally displaced persons, and cross-border communities to access health and socioeconomic services. Specifically, it aims to enhance IGAD’s coordination capacity, increase access to health and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, combat gender-based violence, improve community engagement, ensure borders are safe for trade and promote digital health solutions. To date, the programme has delivered nearly 5.6 million PPEs, more than 175,000 test kits and 21 ambulances across the region to support the COVID-19 response.

The program is managed by UNOPS, and implemented by IGAD, IOM, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and TradeMark East Africa (TMEA). The digital health solutions component is co-funded by the German Government and managed by GIZ.

For more information, please contact Haimanot Abebe,, +251-47-551 0899, ext. 1260

An estimated 46,000 migrants have entered Ethiopia through border crossings  since April 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the country. Photo: Haimanot Abebe/IOM/2021
An estimated 46,000 migrants have entered Ethiopia through border crossings since April 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the country. Photo: Haimanot Abebe/IOM/2021