ADDIS ABABA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, on Friday urged for more humanitarian support for the nearly one million people displaced by recent violence in south-western Ethiopia.
The UN migration agency, IOM, said last month that since April some 970,000 people have fled their homes due to fighting between communities along the border of Ethiopia's Gedeo Zone in the Southern region and West Guji Zone in Ethiopia's largest Oromia region.
"Displaced people, host communities and returnees are in dire need of assistance for basic necessities like food, water, blankets and cooking supplies. Shelter materials, especially plastic sheeting, are urgently needed before the heavy seasonal rains," the UN refugee agency said in a statement on Friday.
"We and our partners urgently need resources to continue providing life-saving assistance. For the coming 12 months, we need USD 21.5 million for the IDP response," it added.
Amid UNHCR's call for urgent support, the Ethiopian government has on Thursday stressed that almost all of the internally displaced people in south-western Ethiopia will return home soon as government rehabilitation efforts kick in.
More than 359,000 of the displaced have already returned to their respective localities as inter-communal clashes are contained and security situations improved, Ethiopia's state press agency quoted regional officials as saying.
Local government officials further affirmed that communities involved in the conflict have settled the conflict through traditional mechanisms.
UNHCR, however, stressed for strong support for the returnees, saying that "UNHCR and partners are calling for all returns to be voluntary and conducted in safety and dignity."
"Our teams observed many of the IDPs being hosted in schools, hospitals and other public buildings. Those who have returned home to their plots of land or farms often find that there is nothing left," it added.
According to UNHCR, the recent violence that followed more than a year of drought and tension over resources has brought various challenges on the displaced people.
UNHCR, which deployed two Emergency Response Teams on the ground in Gedeo and West Guji areas, said it is presently responding to the urgent needs of the displaced persons and returnees after requests by the Ethiopian government for humanitarian assistance.
UNHCR also revealed the provision of 50,000 emergency kits comprised of kitchen sets, sleeping mats, blankets, plastic sheets and jerry cans, with funding from the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
UNHCR's current support to Ethiopia's inter-communal crisis is in addition to providing assistance to some 854,000 refugees in the east African country, it was noted.