Assayita, ETHIOPIA – Traveling by car, the road seems endless from the capital Addis Ababa to Assayita, the former regional capital of the Afar Regional State. Cruising northeastward on the meandering tarmac road, one can only see heavy trucks roaring past every few minutes. It requires traveling for two days to reach this place where thousands of refugees have taken shelter.
The refugee camp, located 7 kilometers from Assaiyita, now hosts more than 5,000 Eritreans who have fled unrest in their homeland, Eritrea.
Nuri Abdu is a 30-year-old mother of 4. Three of her children were born after she arrived at the Assayita refugee camp seven years ago. She is now breastfeeding her 8-month-old youngest child.
“Men were taken for military service, and my husband and I had to escape this,” said Nuri. Before they arrived in Assayita, they had heard that there was a refugee camp in Ethiopia that could give them food and shelter. “We had to walk for four days through the desert to reach here,” added Nuri.
After seven years in the camp, Nuri seems settled for the shelter and the food she is provided with regularly by WFP.
“The food has given us life, and we live with hope,” says Nuri. “We are receiving wheat, chickpeas, rice, oil, salt and sugar regularly, as well as fortified food for our kids. We are happy all these are available to keep us alive.”
Nuri’s husband, Ahmed Isak Yara is a 30-year-old former cattle herder. The couple managed to send their eldest boy to the school in the refugee camp.
“My hope is to see my kids grown up and educated. I don’t want them to be illiterate like me,” said Yara lying on his straw mat in his home.
Both Nuri and Yara seem to be determined to go back to their homeland.
“The food assistance and the shelter we are provided with has made us live here without fear, but if there is peace I would prefer to take my family back home,” said Yara.
Ethiopia now hosts more than 376,000 refugees who fled from Somalia, South Sudan, Eritrea and other countries. Out of these, WFP assists around 338,00 refugees in 18 camps by providing monthly food rations, supplementary food for malnourished children and school meals for children attending school in refugee camps.