Uprooted in Ethiopia: A day in the life of Gabezech

Gabezech and her family have been displaced by violence in Ethiopia’s Konso zone. Unable to go to school, she’s finding comfort with friends.

Ethiopia. A girl smiles at the camera.
14 June 2021

KONSO ZONE, Ethiopia – Eight-year-old Gabezech is one of the many children displaced since chronic border disputes erupted in violence around the Konso zone in southwestern Ethiopia, in late 2020. Tens of thousands of children have been uprooted from their homes, many separated from their families, leaving them at greater risk of disease, struggling to find shelter, and more vulnerable to violence.

Gabezech lives with her family in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) after they were forced to flee their village of Kusume. She says many homes in Kusume – including her own – were set ablaze when disputes with the neighbouring village turned violent. “I didn’t see the fire. I only saw the smoke,” Gabezech told UNICEF.


A day with Gabezech

Around 10,000 people are estimated to have lost their homes in Kusume, including Gabezech and her family.

Ethiopia. A girl stands next to a makeshift shed with animals inside.

“There were many people who lost their homes in the fires, just like us.”

The family has been staying at the Baide IDP site in Konso zone, which provides shelter for those who have been displaced by violence.

Ethiopia. A girl walks near a site for internally displaced persons.

“We walked a long way to get here. On our way here I was carried.”

But conditions at these sites are often dire. The camps are overcrowded and unsanitary, magnifying the risks for children, and making it impossible for people to practise COVID-19 prevention measures. Residents are also at risk of common diseases, such as pneumonia, as well as eye infections. The only source of water is a nearby stream.

UNICEF is supplying families with water treatment tablets to prevent diarrhoea.

Ethiopia. A girl sits with her friends at a displacement camp.

“I love to learn. But now I don’t go to school.”

Two schools in Kusume were damaged in the violence. COVID-19 had already caused massive disruption to children’s education in Ethiopia, but a combination of the pandemic and violence has meant many have been out of school for more than a year.

Ethiopia. A girl holds a goat in her arms.

“I am the only one who always wins!”

Gabezech says she used to learn things like her ABCs by singing. Even though she’s out of school, she still likes spending time with her friends – and playing a game called Furushune, which involves drawing circles on the ground, tossing stones and hopping.

UNICEF is on the ground and working with partners to provide emergency supplies, like soap, water disinfectant tablets and nutrition supplies. We are also providing routine vaccinations and other health services, including vital information and guidance on preventing the spread of COVID-19.

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