ADDIS ABEBA – Nearly 1.9 million displaced people have returned to their areas of origin since the government began a scaled-up implementation of the IDP Return Plan in May, according to the UN humanitarian agency.
Close to 3 million people left their homes due to mainly ethnic-related conflicts that the country witnessed since early last year.
The figure, the highest recorded anywhere in the world, seriously mars the record of Abiy Ahmed, the reformist prime minister who took office in April 2018.
The government is now pushing with its plan to return displaced people from various parts of the country to their home.
Close to 1.9 million have already been returned to their home, said the UN humanitarian agency in its bi-weekly bulletin on Wednesday.
The figure shows some 1.1 million persons are still displaced.
UN OCHA, quoting reports from zonal authorities, claims 97 percent of from East Wollega zone and 84 percent from West Wollega zone have returned to their home as of last week, May 22, 2019.
About 30 percent, of the 962, 000, internally displaced people have also returned in the Somali region, according to regional authorities reported.
Out of the 107,000 IDPs in the Amhara region, 35 percent have returned so far, it said.
Similarly, the overwhelming majority of displaced peoples in Gedeo and West-Guji zones have reportedly returned to their areas of origin.
Displacement sites continue to be dismantled and officially closed, it said.
On May 18, Refugee International or RI released a statement urging the Ethiopian government not to coerce people to return to their homes.
RI said that after some reports claim that authorities are demolished refugee sites, specifically in Gedeo Zone, and leaving displaced people with no other options.
“The government’s actions are making an ongoing humanitarian crisis even worse,” said RI Senior Advocate Mark Yarnell, who traveled to southern Ethiopia in September 2018.
“I met displaced people who described horrific levels of violence, including entire villages burned to the ground. The government pushing people to return to their home communities prematurely will only add to the ongoing suffering.”
UN OCHA’s bulletin said: “Most of the returning IDPs are not in their homes, but in temporary sites in kebeles of origin pending rehabilitation support”.
The agency said, “increased rehabilitation support is also required”.
“Most interviewed returnees call for support to rebuild their damaged houses and restore their livelihoods,” the UN agency concluded.