Read caption Maymuna Ahmed (75) came to Koloji camp a year ago with her family, fleeing conflict in the Oromia region. Koloji camps 1 and 2 host over 11,000 families. Photo: Tinbit Amare Dejene/NRC

Displaced in Ethiopia: "I have nothing left"

Tinbit Amare Dejene|Published 21. Nov 2018
Seventy-five-year-old Maymuna Ahmed has lived her whole life in eastern Ethiopia’s Babile town. One night, everything changed: Maymuna’s house was burned to the ground and she is now among the one million people who has been forced to flee in the region.

"I have nothing left," says the 75-year-old grandmother. She is sitting in a small tent in a displacement camp, with her daughter and two-month-old grandson.

Around one million people have been displaced following inter-communal disputes that erupted between the ethnic Oromo and Somali communities in Ethiopia in 2016.

What’s happening near the Oromia-Somali border?

The Oromia Region is the largest and most populated state in Ethiopia, and consists primarily of the Oromo ethnic group, while the bordering Somali Region, the second largest state by area, primarily constitutes those of the Somali ethnic group.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), around one million people have been displaced due to conflict between the two groups.

Although an agreement to peacefully solve disputes was signed in April 2017, clashes erupted once again in September the same year. This localised inter-communal violence continues to cause loss of life and livelihood until this day.


Maymuna was born and raised in the city of Babile in Oromia, where she also got married and gave birth to her eight children. For 74 years, Babile was her only home.

I have nothing left.
Maymuna Ahmed

When violence broke out, Somali ethnics, among them Maymuna and her family, were forced to leave Oromia city. Their houses were looted and burned to the ground by Oromo youth groups in the area.

Starting over in a displacement camp

"This area used to be a dense forest, until the government cleared it a year ago when we arrived. They built shelter for us," Maymuna explains.

Read caption The 75-year-old grandmother is holding her two-month-old grandson in Koloji Refugee camp near Jijiga, the capital of the Somali region. Photo: Tinbit Amare Dejene/NRC

The Koloji II camp was established one year and three months ago. It is currently hosting around 7,475 families – nearly 37,000 people. The residents have fled from several different parts of the Oromia region to seek safety in the bordering Somali region.

She was like a second mother to me. She was inside our house when they torched it.
Raha Ahmed, a 40-year-old mother of eight

Some of the families walked for days to reach the camp. Others were brought to safety by buses that were sent by the authorities in the Somali region. More people are still arriving every day. In the past two months, about 2,500 new people have arrived in the camp.

Read also: They burned down our house

The Ethiopian government and humanitarian agencies have been responding to the needs of the people in the displacement camp, but people are still in desperate need of proper sanitation and health facilities, food, education and shelter.

Read caption Maymuna lost her house and her livestock due to ethnic conflict in Oromia. She is not planning on going back. Photo: Tinbit Amare Dejene/NRC

We are currently providing people with emergency cash so that they can buy what they need the most. With funding from Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), we provide every person in the camp with approximately 50 USD every month.

This has helped people buy food, clothing, mats and plastic materials for their shelters.

Too scared to return home

"So many people were killed. My father’s second wife – she was like a second mother to me – was inside our house when they torched it," says another resident of the camp, Raha Ahmed, a 40-year-old mother of eight children.

Read caption Raha Ahmed is sitting on a mat she bought with some of the money she has received from NRC. Photo: Tinbit Amare Dejene/NRC

The displaced people in Koloji II used to be farmers, merchants and pastoralists, with assets and homes. Most of them have lost everything. Although many tell us that they wish to return home to their normal lives one day, most residents are, for now, too scared to go back. For many, returning home means risking their lives. But life in the camp is also difficult:

"We used to be autonomous. We had jobs. Now we are dependent on humanitarian aid."