Ethiopia: Another step towards implementing new project
26 March 2010

The majority of refugees at Mai-Aini camp are young men, who fled Eritrea and compulsorily conscriptionin the military. (Frido Pflueger SJ/JRS)
A needs assessment conducted by JRS last July revealed that the majority of the Eritrean refugees in Mai-Aini are young men from urban areas who have completed secondary school education.

Mai-Aini, 26 March 2010 — JRS signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ethiopian government and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to officially launch a new project in Mai-Aini refugee camp on February 25, 2010. The camp is located near Shire, northern Ethiopia, close to the border with Eritrea and hosts around 15,000 Eritrean refugees. 

On behalf of their respective organisations, Ayalew Awoke, Deputy Director of the Ethiopian government’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), Cosmos Chanda, Deputy Country Representative of UNHCR in Ethiopia, and Seyoum Asfaw, JRS Ethiopia Director, all signed the document.

“I appreciate the initiative taken by JRS to intervene in Mai-Aini refugee camp and to alleviate the plight of Eritrean refugees there,” Mr Awoke said at the signing ceremony. Mr Asfaw expressed JRS’ gratitude towards ARRA and UNHCR for the continued support and cooperation as well as their help to implement the project in Mai-Aini. He further underlined the situation of Eritrean refugees in Mai-Aini camp and the focus of JRS activities in the camp.

A needs assessment conducted by JRS last July revealed that the majority of the Eritrean refugees in Mai-Aini are young men from urban areas who have completed secondary school education. With this background and the lack of employment or study opportunities in the camp, they have difficulties in adapting to the new environment. Many arrived at the camp, hoping to be resettled to a third country, but found that there are no such opportunities. Frustration and anxiety as well as serious mental health problems are common among the refugee community. Therefore, JRS will mainly offer counselling services, including training of peer counsellors, recreation activities such as sports, games, music, dance and a library. In the longer-term, JRS will explore the possibility of offering a tertiary-level distance learning programme.

Hoping to improve Mai-Aini

According to the signed document, ARRA will, among other things, secure and provide land for building facilities, such as a daycare centre, a library, playgrounds, offices and a guesthouse in Mai-Aini; and assist JRS in dealing with pertinent government offices, particularly the Ministry of Education. UNHCR will provide all necessary technical and professional assistance to JRS, as required.

JRS decided to intervene in Mai-Aini refugee camp after extended consultations with UNHCR and ARRA, as well as field visits by the JRS Regional Director and the JRS Ethiopia Director and recommendations of an external evaluator. “Now, that the project proposal has been approved by all stakeholders and the memorandum has been signed, JRS Ethiopia is waiting for the release of the funds to start the actual implementation on the ground,” says Mr Asfaw.







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Angelika Mendes
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