Meable, 12 years old, Meyhaw, 15 and Awet, 14 live together in a house in Hitsat refugee camp just outside Shire, a district in northern Ethiopia. The camp houses about 10,000 refugees from Eritrea. Most of them are minors, and about one in ten have fled alone. 

Interviewed by Head of media and communication Tuva Raanes Bogsnes.

The waiting room

Inside two small houses in a refugee camp in northern Ethiopia, seven girls and three boys wait for the Crown Prince Couple of Norway to visit.  All the children fled across the border from Eritrea, alone. “Off course we miss our families, but we cannot return now,” the children say.

It’s lunchtime and 15-year-old Furtuna sits next to a pot, stirring with all the strength she has. A sauce of tomatoes, paprika and onion simmer inside. She is preparing food together with the eldest children, while the youngest girls have other tasks, like fetching bread or cleaning. The seven girls, who live in the house together, didn’t know each other before they came to Hitsats refugee camp. 

“Now, we’re like sisters,” Winta says. For almost two years, the 16-year-old has stayed in the children’s collective run by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC). “Our friendship means a lot now.” 

The room is no larger than 20 square metres, yet the seven girls use it as a bedroom, a kitchen and a living room. They also share the three beds. On the left side of the house lives an adult who is responsible for the girls, watching out for them and helping them when needed. On the right side of the house live six boys who also fled Eritrea to Ethiopia, alone. 

As one of the eldest, Winta explains why they left their home country: “We’re all afraid to end up in the military and to lose the opportunity to get education. In the military you never finish and you have no choice. They come to get you, perhaps in the middle of the night. That’s why many of us had to leave.”

The girls crossed the border to Ethiopia on foot, all alone. “We heard people were shot on the way. In school, they told us that many girls were raped while trying to get away,” says Winta. The other girls nod their heads in affirmation. 

In the camp, the children attend school and get food. The girls are happy to live safely in the neighbouring country. “The very best is that we don’t have to be afraid anymore. And we have the opportunity to go to school and learn,” Winta says. 

The next door boys are 12, 14 and 15 years old. They have the same stories as the girls – grateful to be in safety, to escape the endless military service and to have the opportunity to go to school. 
“The education helps us grow and to make us stronger,” says 15-year-old Meyhaw. He came to the camp five months ago. 

When you ask the children if they have relatives in Europe, they all nod their heads. Uncles in Sweden and brothers in Germany. In the boys’ house, they plan to go further abroad. 

“We’re thinking that we have to travel to Sudan, Libya and then Europe. But for now it’s too strict, so in the meantime we’re happy to get more of an education,” says Meyhaw. 

The girls are not quite convinced as the boys about leaving Ethiopia. “I have a brother who left with a cousin, but only my brother made it over the sea,” says 15-year-old Weyni. “There are days when all I want is to travel, but then I feel it’s hopeless. We know how dangerous it is.”  

For now, the children want to stay in the children’s collective. The boys love their soccer practice and some of the girls have recently joined a drama group. If they were to wish for something better in life, they would wish for electricity to do homework. They would wish for some new clothes and maybe a cinema, so they could watch movies and forget about reality for a while. 

Photo: Beate Simarud/NRC Facts and figures:

Eritreans are the third largest group of refugees living in Ethiopia, with 37,321 refugees currently registered in refugee camps in the Shire area camps. 

Currently there are 163,281 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

It is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of Eritrean refugees leave the camps within the first three months of arrival, and 80 per cent leave within the first year, with significant numbers of the population departing irregularly from Ethiopia to third countries – often with the assistance of smugglers and at great risk to their lives. 

The population in the Shire camps is unique, with a large number of children below the age of 18 and unaccompanied children. 

As of June 2017, 72 per cent of the refugees living in Shire were under the age of 18, including 4,725 unaccompanied and separated children, representing approximately 11.5 per cent of the total refugee population. 

Unaccompanied and separated children live in a variety of care arrangements, including community care, foster care, or family-based care.
Foto: Beate Simarud/NRC Flyktinghjälpen

Vårt arbete i Etiopien

Samtidigt som allvarlig torka hotar liv och livsmedelsförsörjning fortsätter folk att passera landets gränser. De flyr från krig i grannländerna. NRC Flyktinghjälpen har funnits på plats med livsviktiga insatser samt insatser som bygger en bättre framtid sedan 2011.


Humanitär översikt

Konflikt, torka och översvämningar är de främsta orsakerna till att folk tvingas på flykt i Etiopien. Etiopien ligger omgivet av en konfliktfylld region och är Afrikas näst största flyktingmottagande land, med 769 310 flyktingar. Dessa kommer främst från angränsande Sydsudan, Eritrea, Sudan och Somalia.

Flyktingbefolkningen fortsätter att öka på grund av kriget i Sydsudan och en ständig tillströmning från Eritrea. Sedan kriget bröt ut i december 2013 har 310 683 sydsudanesiska flyktingar tagit sig in i regionen Gambella i Etiopien.

I slutet av juli 2020 var antalet internt fördrivna personer (förkortat IDP) 1,82 miljoner, vilket gör Etiopien till det land som har det högsta antalet internflyktingar i världen. Orsakerna till detta är konflikt (68 %), torka (19 %) och säsongsbundna översvämningar (6 %). Majoriteten av internflyktingarna bor i Oromia, Benishangul-Gumuz och i Somali-regionen. Här kämpar de för att återuppbygga sina liv och sin försörjning.


NRC Flyktinghjälpens arbete

NRC Flyktinghjälpen finns i sex regioner (Tigray, Oromia, SNNP, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambella och Somali-regionen) och en stad (Addis Abeba) i Etiopien. Vi ger flyktingar och internt fördrivna människor nödhjälp och hjälper dem att återuppbygga sina liv.