Report of Site Visit IDP Camps in Zoba Debub

Situation Report
Originally published
Alba Camp
Alba camp is divided into five sections by village and managed by five different administrators. The majority of the population of this camp have been redisplaced and originally came from two previous camps-- Mai Wurai and Filho. These people were originally from the villages of Tsorona, Hadish Adi, Gobolo, Seb=B9o, Debar and Keneen. New arrivals are coming at the rate of 20-50 people per day (very rough estimate) from the previous camps as well as from the region located between the Eritrean and Ethiopian armies.

We spoke with Kifle Mengis, the administrator of one of the five sections of the camp. His section consists of 1,336 families and 5,772 individuals. He reported that the entire camp of Alba has 3,396 families and 14,000 individuals although the camp appears to contain many more people. The camp is spread out over several kilometers and many hillsides.

Food: One week before people had been given a one month ration of wheat, flour and oil; however this food will not be sufficient since the overall population of the camp is increasing. It is reported that 3,580 families moving out of their villages may be on their way the Alba.

Shelter: Out of the initial residents of Alba, most people were able to bring their tents from the previous camps, but some were burned. The administrator reported that in his section there are 700 tents and 336 plastic sheets while 300 people have no shelter at all. The climate around Alba is colder than the areas that people came from so there is a need for blankets.

Water and Sanitation: We spoke with an MSF logistician who was in the process of digging boreholes, installing water bladders and building latrines. So far there are only two latrines, several boreholes and one functioning water bladder. More water bladders are on their way.

Health: There is a clinic and they were in the middle of a measles vaccination campaign. We did not speak with the clinic staff.

New Arrivals: We spoke with a group of new arrivals who were waiting to be registered. They had come from a village that is located between the Eritrean and Ethiopian army positions. There seemed to be some contradiction in their reasons for not leaving the village at an earlier date. One woman said that their village had not been evacuated while the surrounding villages were evacuated. Another woman said that they knew they could have left if they had wanted to and chose to stay to care for their livestock. They walked eleven hours to get to Alba and found the camp by asking people. They were not able to bring anything with them besides what they could carry and left behind the older people who could not walk and their livestock.

Possibility of Return and overall conditions: It is not possible for the majority of the residents of Alba to return to their villages because most of their villages are in Ethiopian occupied territories. Alba has a feeling of permanence to it. There is a long market =B3street=B2 where people sell clothing, food and household items and people seem to have adapted to camp life. They were operating a school in their previous camps and will probably start school again in the fall.

Zula Camp

According to the representative we spoke to in Adi Keih the population of Zula is 14,560 and increasing. Most of the people in the camp come from villages around Senafe and Adi Keih. Approximately ten families are arriving each day from the Senafe area. Some are going to Mai Ha bar. People live in the caves, with host families in the villages in the canyon and in the camp at the bottom. Additionally there are over 7,000 people living in caves in the area of the camp who are not receiving supplies or food rations. The road down to Zula is eroding and becoming increasingly difficult to drive on. Our vehicle almost did not make it down.

Food: At the time we were there, we were told that a fifteen day ration had been delivered twenty two days before and was overdue. They said that food comes inconsistently-- sometimes late and sometimes early. The location of this camp makes distribution extremely difficult as IDPs have to climb to the top of the canyon to receive food in the school located there.

Shelter: When we were there families were in the process of setting up plastic sheets that they had received a few days before. Not everyone received plastic sheeting and some are still living in caves. The sheeting needs to be hung up on a wood frame, and although this provides some relief from the rain, the structure is still very open and offers no protection from the wet ground. People are still in need of blankets for this reason. There is also concern about the ability of the plastic sheets to withstand the wind.

The original arrivals to the camp brought nothing with them; however the newer arrivals are able to bring some household items.

Water: According to camp residents they had a decent water supply but it was contaminated by a recent flood. They felt that water was one of their biggest problems at that time.

In general: We were concerned about the remoteness of the camp and difficulty to access it; however, camp residents said that they feel secure here and more comfortable than they did in their home villages. Because many of the residents of Zula were fleeing from occupied areas, there is little hope of moving them back to their homes until after peace keepers are in place.

Halai Site

This site serves as both a host community and a camp. We spoke to a village representative because the town administrator was not present. He was unable to give us clear and accurate information about the situation in Halai. He said that in the town people were living 4-5 families in one house. There was a woman living under a plastic sheet in front of his office. There are also many tents set up on the hillside across from the town and we were informed that there were more people further up in the valley.

In the administrative office there were boxes of milk powder, BP5, dates and oil. He informed us that this food had been delivered the day before and that it would be distributed when the rest of the shipment arrived on that day. We also observed a stack of over one hundred used tents (approximately) and several rolls of plastic sheeting. When asked how long these shelter items had been sitting there, we were told that they had been delivered one week before. We asked the representative why they had not been distributed and he said that they had only been there for a few days and they had not had a chance to distribute them yet. It is very possible that this representative did not have accurate information about the status of these items; however, in a situation where so many people are living without adequate shelter every possible effort needs to be made to deliver shelter items to needy people as quickly as possible. Even though the condition of the tents was not good, we were discouraged that there were people living under plastic sheets and crowded into houses when some shelter items were readily available.

Salina Camp

Salina had 67,950 people as of May 26th. Currently people are actively leaving the camp and returning to their homes around Adi Quala. They hoped to reduce the population of the camp to 25,000 within three days of our visit. The 25,000 who will remain are IDPs who cannot return to their homes for safety reasons.

This camp is well supplied with water, latrines, food and shelter compared to other camps we visited. Considering that the camp population will be reduced by half, the ERREC administrator anticipates that IDPs remaining in Salina will have adequate shelter, food and sanitation.

People who are moving out receive one month food rations of flour, salt, oil and lentils prior to departure. It is hoped that donors will also assist people in resettling into their homes by providing tools, household items, seed and other things necessary for resettlement and reconstruction in areas that have been destroyed or badly damaged.

As people move out of Salina, they are vacating their tents and leaving them behind. It has not yet been decided whether or not to keep these tents in storage in case people need to move back to Salina or to distribute them to another camp. With many camps in desperate need of shelter, it might be a good idea to move some of the vacated tents to other areas.