Alemitu and her children outside their new rental house with support from IOM. Photo: Cheru H./IOM

Addis Ababa – Conflict has displaced thousands of households in Ethiopia, many of which often face hard options. In the absence of decent housing or a source of income, the International Organization for Migration is now offering them a lifeline in the form of cash support.

Since September 2018, localized conflicts have caused an estimated 191,752 individuals to be displaced in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region (BSG) as well as in the East and West Wollega zones of Oromia region. More than 50,000 of these internally displaced persons (IDPs) are living in the Haro Limmu woreda (district).

While some recent shelter and non-food item assistance has targeted returnees with shelter repair materials, many displaced households have not received any support at all, and now are forced to rent shelters in towns or share shelter with relatives.

Before IOM's Cash for Rent support provision, Dugassa and his family lived in one host person's makeshift kitchen. Photo: Cheru H./IOM

Dugassa, 35, is among these IDPs. They were living in a small grass roof house in Tiqish Kebele of Yaso woreda, Benishangul Gumuz Region (BGR) when the conflict erupted between the Gumuz and Oromo ethnic groups. Now, he and three family members are living in Haro Limu woreda. Dugassa has an impairment in his right leg and needs support to walk at any time. He shares a home due to his lack of income.

“We spend more nights without dinner than with,” Dugassa explains, adding  that since being displaced two years ago, the living situation has been difficult for his family. Dugassa eventually started earning as a shoe cleaner, for which he takes home around ETB 50 (USD 1.35) every day.

His persistence eventually allowed him to start renting a house for his family for ETB 300 a month.

To his surprise, he learned that he is one among the beneficiaries selected for IOM cash-for-rent programme, from which he now can afford to stay in a more improved shelter for the next six months.

“This cash assistance is very important, especially in this critical time of COVID-19. We are grateful to IOM for this support!”, Dugassa says.

Another conflict-displaced person supported by this programme is Alemitu. Alemitu lived an abundant life before the conflict, living on her own land and utilizing it as a source of livelihood. All was lost after the conflict and she went from having everything to nothing.

Alemitu and her children outside their new rental house with support from IOM. Photo: Cheru H./IOM

The 37-year-old widow lost her husband and three other family members when the conflict erupted in her town. She was forced to flee her home and farm with her daughter and three sons. She ended up in Haro Limu woreda, staying over a month in an emergency, shared communal shelter with other displaced people.

“I did whatever is possible to earn a living like washing clothes, selling firewood,” she recalled. Yet even with these efforts to earn a living, she has put herself at risk of abuse. Women IDPs were prohibited by the host community from collecting firewood near town and instead were told to go to a forest more than three hours away, departing in the morning, collecting and carrying wood and coming back in the evening.

Struggling to make ends meet, IOM’s Cash- for -rent project came to support her and her family. "IOM’s assistance is a big sigh of relief. Our future living condition has given my children a reminder of what it’s like to live normally again.” Alemitu gleefully says.

Dugassa's improved shelter with the provision of IOM Cash for Rent support. Photo: Cheru H./IOM

"Although the needs of the population remain very high in the area, we are very happy to have piloted this methodology for the first time in Ethiopia. The cash for rent activity was a success and it will support beneficiaries to pay for housing debts,  continue renting without problems and have a conducive shelter to live in,” says Tabata Fioretto, Programme Manager for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) and Shelter/Non-Food Items (NFI).

IOM’s cash for rent assistance was made possible through the generous contribution of the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund and in coordination with the shelter cluster.

For more information, contact Krizia Kaye Viray, Media and Communications Officer, IOM Ethiopia; Email:; Mobile: +251993531220.