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The number of refuges entering Ethiopia is expected to increase sharply due to a severe drought affecting South Sudan and the Somali region. According to the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), since September 30th and throughout the month of October 2016, Ethiopia has received 58,000 refugees.

“We are currently working on a contingency plan; we expect more refugees to come due to the severe drought that is currently affecting South Sudan,” said Zeynu Jemal, Deputy Director of ARRA.

During a workshop organized to launch the  Regional Development and Protection Program (RDPP) funded with 30 million Euros by the European Union, the Netherlands, the Ethiopian Government and UN partners, it was stated that Ethiopia is working on expanding its ‘Out of Camp’ plan by implementing programs such as the RDPP that aims to support basic service delivery in water, energy and education, livelihood activities and job creation, legal aid and capacity building of local authorities and stakeholders.

“We had reservations about  the Geneva Convention when it came to providing employment as well as education for refugees during the Haile Selassie era due to low resources. Now we are putting in place some mechanisms to change this slowly; we are working on job creation skills for the refugees because when they return to their own country at some point, they need to be able to provide for themselves and their communities,” Zeynu also said.

Ethiopia is a country of origin, transit and destination of refugees. The country is currently the largest host of refugees in Africa with over 800,000 residing.

At the workshop, the RDPP was officially launched by the Head of the European Union Delegation Ambassador Chantal Hebberecht, Deputy Head of Development Cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands Reina Buijs.

“The strategic approach of the RDPP Ethiopia is to promote integrated solutions, which will benefit both refugees and host communities to ensure a more coordinated and sustainable use of funding. And also create greater self-reliance, stimulate socio-economic development and reduce tensions between refugees and host communities related for instance, to scarcity of resources,” said Ambassador Hebberecht.

The RDPP in Ethiopia is the second one to be launched, after Kenya, and will be followed by Somalia and Sudan. It will work closely with the refugee authorities (ARRA), local, regional and federal government, and other humanitarian and development stakeholders to ensure coordination.