Families unwilling to go home until border marked

Families displaced during the Ethiopia-Eritrea war are still not returning home because of the danger of landmines and the impending demarcation of the border.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) warned on Tuesday that until implementation of the controversial boundary decision takes place, Ethiopian families will be reluctant to go home.

Fighting between both countries, which erupted in May 1998 and ended with a peace deal in December 2000, forced around one million people to flee their homes on both sides of the border.

“Many of these war displaced are unlikely to fully reintegrate into their communities and attain self-sufficiency unless the frontier is demarcated, their lands demined and security ensured,” the NRC said.

In its 2003 report on internally displaced persons (IDPs), the NRC said ethnic conflict in Ethiopia was also fuelling displacement and had forced thousands from their homes.

The agency also said the government’s controversial resettlement programme – which aims to relocate two million people in three years – was “of serious concern”.

“Household vulnerability and displacement have been exacerbated by a controversial resettlement scheme, implemented by the government, which relocated hundred of thousands Ethiopians in 2002,” the NRC said.

The organisation added that natural disasters like flooding and the severe drought had forced families from their homes.

“Serious drought and floods have left nearly 20 percent of Ethiopians in need of food aid and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes,” the report noted.

But despite the scale of the IDP crisis, the NRC says no figures are available for the numbers of displaced people across the country.

The UN’s World Food Programme and the World Bank are both offering support to tens of thousands of IDPs – mainly affected by the border war.