Aid organisations voiced alarm today over a displacement crisis in southern Ethiopia, warning that many of the hundreds of thousands who have fled inter-communal violence were living in places "unfit for human habitation".
More than 800,000 people fled violence along the Oromia and Somali regions' border in the country's southeast last month alone, according the UN humanitarian agency.
That followed a first wave of people fleeing after fighting in the area first flared up in April, the agency said, adding that it remained unclear how many people in total had been displaced.
The UN migration agency, IOM, said today that most of the freshly displaced were living without adequate shelter or safe sanitation, and warned the situation was being exacerbated by the onset of the rainy season.
"Walking for days to find safety, many sleeping out in the open along the way, the displaced communities have few if any possessions beyond the clothes they left in, and no food or money," IOM said in a statement.
Those who have recently fled their homes join nearly 1.8 million people already internally displaced within Ethiopia, it said.
IOM said many of the displaced were staying with relatives or had sought shelter in schools, government buildings or disused factories.
"Thousands of people are crammed into overcrowded collective centres unfit for human habitation," it said, adding that "others sleep outside on dirt floors with nothing more than a tarpaulin to shield them from the cold and rain."
The International Committee of the Red Cross also voiced alarm this week that the inter-communal clashes in southern Ethiopia were "fuelling a rapidly swelling humanitarian crisis".
"This crisis is completely off the radar of the international community and the consequences of this neglect could be dire," Shirin Hanafieh, ICRC's assessment team leader, said in a statement.
"If humanitarian assistance is not scaled up quickly, people will be at-risk of malnutrition and disease outbreaks, especially as the rainy season sets in," she said, warning that "people are struggling to live in anything resembling basic dignity."
Amnesty International accused Ethiopia's government last month of not doing enough to prevent escalating ethnic violence.
Ethiopia is divided into ethnically demarcated federal regions. But inter-communal conflicts have become common in recent months, particularly in Oromia -- the country's biggest region and home its largest ethnic group, the Oromo.
Last year, a spate of ethnic violence along Oromia's shared border with neighbouring Somali region left hundreds dead and at least 1.1 million displaced, according to UN numbers.
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