Known for its open door policy towards refugees, Ethiopia on Thursday announced to celebrate the World Refuge Day in the Gambela region, where the country’s largest refugee group from South Sudan is settled.

Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous nation, hosts about 850,000 refugees, the largest number in Africa, mainly from Eritrea, South Sudan and Somalia, according to the Ethiopia’s foreign ministry.

As the number of refugees from the three East African countries continues to rise, however, questions have been raised whether Ethiopia will re-assess its refugee policy.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has recently announced that it has only been able to meet 20 percent of the funds required to support the more than 843,000 refugees registered in Ethiopia as of April 30.

According to the UNHCR, the amount of funding needed to meet the needs of refugees is 307.5 million U.S. dollars, yet only 20 percent of the money was secured.

Ethiopia, a country facing its own refugee problem including the ongoing repatriation of an estimated 400,000 Ethiopians from Saudi Arabia, has worked closely with organizations such as UNHCR in responding to the influx of refugees.

Education is one of the key areas the East African country has provided assistance to refugees. According to the foreign ministry’s latest report, the country has so far provided over 1,700 higher education opportunities for refugees.

The largest refugee group in Ethiopia is from world’s youngest nation South Sudan, numbering 357,755, followed by refugees from Somalia (249,000) and Eritrea (169,655).

Though refugees and asylum-seekers mainly reside in camps, the Ethiopian government also permits some to reside in urban areas. According to UNHCR, there are some 7,180 such refugees living in Addis Ababa.

Its “Out of Camp Policy” has provided Eritrean refugees the opportunity to live in Addis Ababa and other locations if they have the necessary means to support themselves.

The UNHCR said thousands are benefiting from this policy and it is hoped that the program can be improved and expanded to cover other refugee groups in the country.

According to the United Nation’s Africa Renewal publications, developing countries, mostly in Africa, are taking in a disproportionate number of refugees, currently hosting 80 percent of the world’s refugee population, and they face enormous pressure on water and health care systems. Enditem

Source: Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh