Operation: Opération: Eritrea



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Key Figures

2017 year-end results
100% of the refugees had access to basic health services while 150 cases were referred to secondary and tertiary medical care 
2,290 refugees received in-kind food assistance and complementary cash grants
910 refugee children benefited from different types of formal education services 
190 families supported with multipurpose cash grants while 72 individuals with specific need were assisted with one-time cash assistance
8 awareness-raising sessions on sexual and gender-based violence were organized
2018 planning figures
100% of refugees in Massawa camp (2,310 people) will have access to health services, will receive cash assistance as well as in-kind food assistance on a monthly basis whereas 107 urban refugees will receive multipurpose cash assistance on a monthly basis
886 refugee students in camps will be enrolled in kindergarten, primary, and secondary education 
80 people with specific needs will be assisted with cash grants for additional material and economic support
55 households in camps will receive cash grant for business startup
20 households in camps will have access to permanent shelter
20 litres/day/person of potable water will be maintained for the refugees in Massawa camp

People of Concern Personnes relevant de la compétence du HCR

Increase in
2017 2,879
2016 2,367
2015 2,557


[["Refugees",2392],["Returned refugees",468],["Others of concern",19]]
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2017 {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"budget":[5.67766065,6.18688585,5.913216673,4.89103671,3.8990943,5.22322441],"expenditure":[4.13881805,4.70862342,3.548472,3.52431606,3.72825424,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[5.67766065,6.18688585,5.913216673,4.89103671,3.8990943,5.22322441],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]} {"categories":[2013,2014,2015,2016,2017,2018],"p1":[4.13881805,4.70862342,3.548472,3.52431606,3.72825424,null],"p2":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p3":[null,null,null,null,null,null],"p4":[null,null,null,null,null,null]}
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  • 2015
  • 2016
  • 2017
  • 2018

Operational context

The political and social situation in Eritrea remained unchanged in 2017. No major deterioration of security was experienced and the situation at the border with Ethiopia was relatively stable. While the implementation of the joint UN and Government’s development program is in progress, some restrictions to the operational environment for the UN agencies remained. The economy remained unstable, despite Government attempts to regulate the market. Constant fluctuation in prices had a negative influence in UNHCR’s operational costs.
UNHCR continued its operation through the agreement with the governmental partner, the Office of Refugee Affairs (ORA), in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other line ministries and UN agencies. As there is no national legislation supporting integration of refugees, resettlement and voluntary repatriation remained the only options. However, the ban on exit visas hampered significantly the prospects of durable solutions for refugees in Eritrea.
Maintaining community cohesion is particularly challenging within the camp-based Somali population, due to pre-existing clan divisions.

Population trends

  • At the end of the year, there were close to 2,400 people of concern, representing a slight growth when compared to figures from the end of 2016, due to births.
  • Some 35 people of concern departed spontaneously, while one person left under voluntary repatriation.

Key achievements

 In 2017, UNHCR:
  • Improved the water supply system to refugees;
  • Conducted a cash-based interventions (CBIs) assessment and a nutrition survey;
  • Government contribution to the refugee health service improved.
  • Continued the distribution of food and the provision of basic social services;
  • Increased the number of people who benefitted from livelihoods activities.

Unmet needs

Due to funding constraints, UNHCR was not able to:
  • Increase CBIs, regardless the recommendations following the CBI assessment in May 2017.  
  • Provide non-food items as required.
  • Support the construction of household latrines;
  • Carry out livelihoods assistance, including vocational training for those who finished or dropped out of school.

Working environment

Since 2012, UNHCR has registered very few new asylum-seekers in Eritrea. At the beginning of 2016, UNHCR’s total population of concern, including camp-based and urban refugees, was some 2,550 individuals, with 98 per cent of them being Somalis.

UNHCR’s activities in Eritrea are significantly affected by funding constraints, high inflation rates and rising operational costs. In 2017, UNHCR will continue to advocate access to durable solutions for refugees, mainly focusing on voluntary repatriation and resettlement.

Key priorities

In addition to pursuing core protection activities and lifesaving assistance, in 2017 UNHCR will focus on:
  • advocating for Eritrea to ratify the OAU Convention and accede to  the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol, as well as to adopt  a national asylum law and establish a structured  asylum system;
  • advocating the inclusion of refugees in national development plans and systems  (health, education, water and sanitation) as part of the broader UN Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework 2017-2021 with the Government of Eritrea;
  • strengthening child protection and protection of people with specific needs;
  • ensuring refugee community mobilization with a view to strengthen peaceful cohabitation and pave ways to local integration as a durable solution;
  • continuing to provide food assistance (in-kind and through cash-based interventions) for  camp-based Somali refugees, as well as monthly cash grants to Sudanese and South Sudanese urban refugees; and
  • expanding opportunities for durable solutions, including voluntary repatriation, resettlement and local integration.
  • encouraging the Government of the State of Eritrea to engage further in the Khartoum process so as to stem the flow of migrations from Eritrea by addressing the root causes through development programs under the Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework for  including skills training and creation of job opportunities, capacity building of Government staff and relevant institutions to effectively manage migration in addition to supporting the Government to develop effective policy and legal framework to manage migration.

Funding constraints continue to limit the number of self-reliance activities that can be undertaken for people of concern in Eritrea. Similarly, funding constraints have prevented the construction of child-friendly spaces and recreational facilities in Emkulu camp; and it is anticipated that a number of persons with specific needs, especially those with medical problems, will not have access to necessary health care services due to limited capacity in Eritrea and no possibilities for medical evacuations.