Displaced families suffering subhuman conditions in Ethiopia: Egeland

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Displaced families are enduring subhuman conditions in Ethiopia without enough food and shelter, Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Jan Egeland attends an interview with Reuters at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

Egeland told Reuters he had seen 3,500 people without food in an abandoned factory, sharing 16 overflowing latrines flooded by torrential rains, during a visit to the southern town of Dilla a day earlier.

“These people feel abandoned and I don’t blame them,” the former Norwegian politician and U.N. official said.

There was no immediate comment from the government, which says 2.3 million citizens are displaced inside the country, 1.7 million of them after fleeing conflict.

The Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre last month gave a higher figure saying an estimated 3.2 million Ethiopians had fled conflict and drought by April this year.

Those - on top of 900,000 refugees, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea - meant the Horn of Africa nation hosted the most displaced people in the world, the center added. Ethiopia’s government has not commented on the difference in the figures.

“We are all failing,” Egeland told Reuters. “The IDPs (internally displaced people) are living totally in subhuman conditions.”

Egeland said he met one young man on Wednesday who had had his hand cut off at the market by an attacker hostile to his ethnic group.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took power more than a year ago after the unprecedented resignation of his successor following three years of intermittent deadly protests.

Abiy has won plaudits for releasing journalists and political prisoners and unbanning political parties. But the country of 100 million people is still hit by bouts of ethnic violence.

The United Nations’ Ethiopia appeal for this year is $1.31 billion, but it has only received a third of those funds, Egeland said.

Writing by Katharine Houreld