Ethiopia: photographs from Mai Aini refugee camp
02 March 2015

Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia is home to more than 18,000 refugees from neighboring Eritrea. (Christian Fuchs / Jesuit Refugee Service USA)

Addis Ababa, 2 March 2015 — More than 18,000 refugees from Eritrea live in the Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia. Jesuit Refugee Service provides counselling services and recreational activities to help the residents deal with the trauma of both their flight to safety and camp life.

The UN refugee agency reports that, as of 31 October 2014, there were 643,010 refugees in Ethiopia, of which 106,859 (17%) came from Eritrea. The population of Mai Aini at that time was 18,252 people – 12,097 males and 6,155 females. 

A grant from the US State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration helps fund JRS efforts to promote the mental and physical well-being of refugees. JRS programmes attempt to combat the endless tedium of camp life through provision of recreational activities such as sports, music, theatre and dance. 

Counselling includes both group and one-on-one sessions to help camp residents deal with various psychological problems stemming from their situation. 

"The refugees may have lost their parents, their property," said Hiwot Ali, the counselling coordinator for JRS at Mai Aini. "They suffer from stress, depression … and we serve them."

There is a large youth population at the camp, and the JRS sports and arts programmes are designed to keep the young refugees active outside of the classroom. Camp life can be one of enforced idleness and boredom; the recreational activities provide youth with a positive outlet for their energy — and encourage them to learn and use new skills in a positive social setting.

Below, photographs from last week in Mai Aini camp. 

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