300,000 migrants impacted by COVID-19 restrictions in East Africa/Horn of Africa


Restrictions to curb the spread of COVID-19 impacted more than 300,000 people in East Africa and the Horn of Africa last year, a new report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found. Meanwhile, the number of migrant crossing to Yemen dramatically decreased in 2020.

At least 300,000 migrants, refugees and internally displaced people across East Africa and the Horn of Africa were seriously affected by restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, according an annual report issued by UN migration agency IOM.

Border closures and other restrictions on people’s movements had a strong impact on these people because they “largely depend on informal employment and the ability to move across borders for work and their survival,” IOM said in a statement, announcing the release of the report “A Region on the Move,” on Tuesday.

Stuck in Djibouti, Somalia, and Yemen

In 2020, IOM recorded fewer migrant crossings to war-torn Yemen, but also a high number of migrants stuck in transit countries in the Horn of Africa region.

“Thousands of migrants, mostly Ethiopian, are stranded in Djibouti, Somalia and Yemen, unable to continue their journey to reach Saudi Arabia via Yemen,” the UN agency reports.

Meanwhile, the number of crossings to Yemen from the Horn of Africa dropped to 37,000 in 2020 (compared to 138,000 in 2019).

IOM also said it recorded a high number of people who spontaneously returned from Yemen to Djibouti and Somalia because of the “extremely harsh conditions faced by migrants, exacerbated by the pandemic.”

But at least 32,000 migrants remain stranded in Yemen, IOM found. And hundreds of thousands across East Africa and the Horn of Africa lack access to food, water, security and medical care, the organization said.

IOM also said that people in the region lacked access to COVID-19 protection measures: Personal protective equipment are in short supply and people do not have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

6.5 million internally displaced people
IOM said that the number of internally displaced people in the region increased slightly last year, reaching 6.5 million in December 2020 compared to 6.3 million in 2019.

The region is one of the worst affected by displacement, according to IOM, which has been exacerbated by the recent desert locust infestation and the crisis in Tigray. An outbreak of a grasshopper pest in the region started in Mid-2019 and continued in 2020. It destroyed many crops and reduced the food supply in the region. In the fall of 2020, fighting broke out in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray. Over a million people were forced to flee their homes.