Media CenterCatholic Groups Address Root Cause of Massive Wave of Displacement in Ethiopia

Photo by Petterik Wiggers for CRS

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Kim Pozniak
Catholic Relief Services
[email protected]


ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA, February 1, 2019 — Ethnic conflict and flooding in the Oromia region of Ethiopia has caused millions of people to flee their homes, resulting in the highest number of internally displaced persons in the world in the first half of 2018, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center. Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has been working with Ethiopian Catholic Church (ECC) to provide critical relief and address the root causes of the ethnic tension through a number of conflict-resolution activities in the Gedeo/Guji zones of Oromia.   

“We know from experience that providing shelter, food and other assistance is not enough when people flee their homes because of ethnic violence. We have to try to get at the root of the problem. We have to help people resolve their conflicts,” said CRS Ethiopia Country Representative John Shumlansky.

Ethnic conflict aggravated by catastrophic flooding has uprooted 2.7 million people in Ethiopia. That number rose by more than 300,000 in the past six months. Most displaced families are from the Somali, Oromia and Southern regions of the country. Much of the violence stems from disputes over land, tensions made worse by flooding, as well as an influx of people migrating to the region from other countries and areas.

Since the upheaval started in the spring of 2018, CRS, along with local Catholic secretariats and local government, have been providing shelter, water, sanitation, hygiene, economic assistance and other services to displaced families trying to find safety in Deder, Babile, Bule Hora and Gedeb Woredas and in Dire Dawa administration. Through the generous support of the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace program, CRS provided 600,000 people with food assistance.

But the ultimate aim is to help people return home if they wish. That is made easier if ethnic groups resume peaceful relationships. The Ethiopian government has been facilitating the return of the Gedeo-Guji displaced people to their homes since August, where conditions allowed.

On November 22, ECC, in collaboration with CRS, held a daylong high-level peace forum entitled, “Collaborative Action for Sustainable Peace” in Dila Town. The Forum brought together religious leaders, regional and district government representatives, and traditional, youth and women leaders, to provide a platform to reflect on the Gedeo/Guji tension. The Forum also created an opportunity for people to come together to identify ways to collaborate to ensure peace between the two communities.  

In December, CRS and ECC also supported meetings with zonal police forces from both the Gedeo and Guji communities to identify outstanding issues and encourage peaceful interactions with each other and community members. Subsequently, the two Catholic groups supported multiple Gedeo and West Guji Government Woreda Cabinet peace-building meetings led by the Ministry of Peace and attended by 263 cabinet members.

CRS has created dozens of peace-building programs throughout the world in the past 30 years.


Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency alleviates suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality. CRS’ relief and development work is accomplished through programs of emergency response, HIV, health, agriculture, education, microfinance and peacebuilding.  For more information, visit or and follow Catholic Relief Services on social media: Facebook, Twitter at @CatholicRelief, @CRSnews and @CRSnoticias, InstagramPinterest and YouTube.


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Kim Pozniak

Director of Communications

Kim Pozniak
February 1, 2019

Based in Baltimore, MD

As the Director of Communications, Kim oversees the communications and social media teams working with journalists and the media to connect them with engaging stories about relief and development programs that are making a tangible difference in people’s lives around the world.

Her previous work at CRS includes handling emergency...More