Covid-19: Kenya distributes food, other items to Ethiopian migrants

by Muizat Hameed
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Over 300 Ethiopian migrants and their families have received food and other essential items from the International Organization for Migration, in Nairobi, Kenya.

The migrants, many of whom have been living and working in Kenya for years, have lost jobs and income due to movement restrictions and curfews and the general economic slowdown, all brought by the pandemic.

While disclosing this on Thursday June 11, 2020, Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa, said the initiative was a small effort to mitigate the broader impact of COVID-19 in the region.

“Migrants are some of the most vulnerable people in the region and their livelihoods have been and continue to be severely impacted by COVID-19,” Abdiker said.

He added that “It is important that all partners including humanitarian agencies and governments work in tandem to alleviate the impact on these vulnerable people.”

While narrating her experience, Assfa Atiwala, one of the beneficiaries, said she arrived in Nairobi from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2017, but found work as a cleaner in homes and restaurants in Kenya’s capital when the pandemic hit.

“Because of the virus many of the restaurants I used to work are now closed. I can’t find work. I have not been able to pay my rent and I fear the landlord will throw me out,” she said.

Assfa is far from alone. There are an estimated 40,000 Ethiopian migrants living and working in Kenya.

Many work in the informal sector, whose nature leaves migrants vulnerable to COVID-19’s worst impacts. Moreover, many cannot access public services or many of the government’s public COVID-19 relief measures.

“The food we are getting today will help cushion us for a few days,” Assfa added. “Last night we had only hot water mixed with sugar. It is hard,” Assfa added.

“We are grateful to IOM for this assistance. It will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of people in need of such humanitarian assistance. We value the relationship that exists between our government and IOM,” said Meles Alem, Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya.

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