Crisis in Ethiopia: Ethnic violence flares, Christian charity warns of 'desperate need'

Ethnic violence in Ethiopia has sparked a crisis in the south of the country, where the UN says 1.2 million people have been displaced.

Communities from the East African country's Gedeo and West Guji zones are still fleeing their homes in enormous numbers, according to Christian charity World Vision UK.

Ethiopia's reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed Ali is faced with combating inter-ethnic violence.Reuters

It said the displaced people are in desparate need of aid. According to the charity's staff, up to 40,000 people were uprooted in June alone, amid fears of disease outbreaks and skyrocketing malnutrition rates among thousands of displaced children.

'Children running from the violence are struggling. Displaced people don't have enough food or clean water. Children are going hungry and without adequate nutrition or clean water, they are more likely to contract a fatal illness,' said Edward Brown, World Vision Ethiopia's national director.

The charity's emergency nutrition coordinator Getahun Mara said: 'Survivors have seen their homes burnt and looted, ruining their means of earning an income. Even when security returns, people will struggle to provide food for their families for months, jeopardising their children's health.'

Many people are seeking shelter in schools, churches or with relatives in nearby villages. Health clinics are reportedly overburdened and in urgent need of medicine and trained staff.

Ethiopia's 100 million people are ethnically diverse and its regional states are based on ethnic identities. However, tensions between different groups periodically erupt into violence – one of many challenges facing its reformist prime minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, who took office on April 2, 2018.

World Vision said it has some funding to respond to the mass displacement, but that but the crisis is reaching a tipping point and more resources are required.

'We are working closely with other humanitarian actors and government to respond to people's needs, but we are limited in what we can do due to a lack of funding,' Brown said.

'Children's lives are hanging in the balance, we urgently need to act.'

World Vision is seeking to raise £12 million ($16 million USD) to assist more than 400,000 displaced people.