Home > Where We Work > Africa > East and Horn of Africa

East and Horn of Africa

2014 UNHCR regional operations profile - East and Horn of Africa

| Overview |

Working environment

The East and Horn of Africa continues to suffer from conflict and displacement. While the number of people in the region requiring humanitarian assistance has risen significantly, access to those in need is often impeded. Some 6 million people of concern to UNHCR, including 1.8 million refugees and more than 3 million internally displaced people (IDPs), require protection and assistance in the region.

However, there has been some improvement in the situation in Somalia, leading to fewer refugees fleeing the country and prompting some to return. In line with a system-wide decision of the Secretary-General, UNHCR has moved its Somalia office from Nairobi to Mogadishu and established a presence in south and central Somalia. In 2014, UNHCR will assist spontaneous and voluntary returns if conditions in the areas of return permit. At the same time, it will advocate for the preservation of asylum space and livelihood opportunities for Somali refugees in the region.

The situation in Sudan remains complex. Violence in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, as well as in parts of Darfur, has sent refugees fleeing into several neighbouring countries. In 2013, conflict between ethnic groups over mining rights, and a general breakdown in law and order in the Darfur region of Sudan, resulted in loss of life as well as displacement both internally and externally. Thousands of refugees have streamed into neighbouring eastern Chad in search of protection. Hundreds of thousands more have been internally displaced, reversing, in the space of just eight months, the gains made in IDP returns in the last two years. This setback has increased the protection and assistance needs in both Chad and Sudan.

Progress in delivering much-needed assistance to the large numbers of IDPs in Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile States has been slowed, mainly due to difficulties in access. In spite of advances in the battle against human smuggling and trafficking in eastern Sudan, more effort is required to protect people of concern in the east against exploitation and violence.

In South Sudan, inter-ethnic conflict in Jonglei State has displaced thousands of people. Refugees have fled into Ethiopia and Kenya and, to a lesser extent, Uganda. The lack of security is one of the main obstacles to access and humanitarian intervention in this region of South Sudan.

Kenya remains the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa. Refugees continue to arrive in Kakuma, mostly from South Sudan. A mass physical verification exercise in the five camps in the Dadaab region from September 2012 to July 2013, showed a 20 per cent reduction in the number of refugees. A similar exercise is underway in Ethiopia.

The resurgence of a Ugandan rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces, in the eastern areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has forced some 66,000 refugees across the border into south-western Uganda. UNHCR and partners, under the overall coordination of the Government of Uganda, are relocating the refugees from the overcrowded transit centre of Bundibugyo to a settlement 30 km away, in Kyangwali. At the same time, refugees fleeing violence in the DRC's North Kivu province, who arrive in the Kisoro district of Uganda, are relocated to the Rwamwanja settlement. These movements will continue in 2014, when more arrivals from the eastern areas of the DRC are expected. Uganda also continues to receive asylum-seekers from South Sudan.

During the first eight months of 2013, some 44,000 refugees arrived in Ethiopia, mostly from Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan and South Sudan. Ethiopia maintains a generous open-door policy towards refugees, and with more than 400,000 refugees and asylum-seekers in 2013, hosts the third-largest number of refugees on the continent after Kenya and Chad. The large number of unaccompanied minors among the new arrivals, in particular from Eritrea, continues to be of concern. In 2014, child protection activities, including best interest determination (BID) procedures, will be an important part of UNHCR's programme in the country.

Eritrea is host to a refugee population of some 4,000 refugees, mostly from Somalia, who have been in the country for two decades. The Somali refugees are located in Umkulu Camp, near the port city of Massawa in the northern Red Sea region, while the Sudanese, South Sudanese, and Ethiopian refugees are located in urban areas. As UNHCR does not have access to the border areas, it is unable to monitor the situation of any new arrivals.

| Response |


In line with the Global Strategic Priorities, the Office's strategy in the East and Horn of Africa will focus on maintaining a favourable protection environment, providing basic needs and services, ensuring emergency preparedness and response capacity, and promoting durable solutions for refugees.

  • UNHCR will work with the Governments in the region to ensure that they have well-functioning asylum systems and institutional frameworks, and the capacity to manage them. In order to maintain a strong protection environment, it will invest more in supporting host communities, especially in the areas of basic services and livelihood opportunities.

  • Addressing basic needs and providing services for refugees is an essential and life-saving component of UNHCR's programme in the East and Horn of Africa. It will continue to support water, sanitation and health services in the refugee camps in Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda. The Office will also continue to promote access to primary education for all refugee children. In urban areas, UNHCR will help refugees to access existing services.

  • Maintaining regional emergency stockpiles and updating contingency and coordination plans will be critical components of UNHCR's programme planning in the region. Such forward planning has proven its effectiveness in South Sudan, for instance, where the prepositioning of relief items before the onset of the rainy season has obviated the need for expensive airdrops. continuing availability of asylum for Somalis, considering that the political and military gains inside Somalia are still fragile. The strategy also takes into account the possibility that some Somali refugees, as well as those displaced inside the country, may choose to return to their homes and require assistance to do so.

  • Given positive developments in Somalia, UNHCR has developed a durable solutions strategy for the region, including in Yemen. This calls for the

  • In the absence of durable solutions for some refugees, notably those in protracted situations, UNHCR has been working with governments, donors and other actors to create livelihood alternatives. These programmes involve and benefit host communities too, as a means of encouraging them to receive and protect refugees. A multi-year project designed to strengthen refugee self-reliance and also aid host communities through enhanced livelihood activities and agriculture is under way in Dollo Ado, Ethiopia. The project's success will serve as an example elsewhere.


It is expected that instability and conflict in the East and Horn of Africa will persist in 2014-2015. Although there is hope with respect to positive developments in Somalia, the possibility of setbacks cannot be excluded. The situation in Sudan remains unstable. The Doha Document for Peace and Development for Darfur (DDPD), signed in 2012, has not yielded peace. South Kordofan and Blue Nile States remain of great concern to the humanitarian community, with hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced people in need of assistance. Access to people of concern has been a challenge throughout 2013 in these areas.

Ongoing instability and violence in the eastern DRC is expected to continue to cause refugees to cross into several districts of Uganda. The absence of peace and security in the DRC precludes any possibility of early return for those fleeing the crisis.

Many of the humanitarian crises in the East and Horn of Africa are in the least developed parts of the region, where the topography and lack of infrastructure make humanitarian assistance costly and sometimes, logistically nearly impossible, especially during the rainy season. In Chad, for example, UNHCR has to depend on helicopter transport to reach refugees during the rainy season.

Insecurity in the northern parts of Kenya, where the majority of the refugees are hosted, remains a concern. An increase in security in the vicinity of the camps, through the Security Partnership Project and community-based policing, has somewhat improved the situation.

In the Darfur region of Sudan, as well as in the protocol areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile States, it has been difficult to obtain unimpeded access to those in need of humanitarian assistance. Visas for humanitarian workers, including UNHCR staff, have often been denied or are issued only intermittently. Despite these challenges, UNHCR and other partners have been able to assist displaced people through the inter-agency Common Humanitarian Pipeline (CHP).

| Implementation |


Operations in Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda are described in separate country chapters.

In Eritrea, UNHCR will pursue the following priorities in 2014 and 2015:

For the Somali refugees in Umkulu Camp, UNHCR has recently shifted its policy from care and maintenance to a multi-year operation oriented towards self-reliance measures with an emphasis on livelihood opportunities for both refugees and the host community. In 2014, UNHCR will continue the construction of semi-permanent housing for refugees in the camp. Efforts have also been intensified to find durable solutions, particularly by accelerating resettlement departures and exploring the possibility of voluntary returns to Somalia. UNHCR will also pursue durable solutions for the Sudanese and South Sudanese refugees in the country. In the meantime, a mixture of in-kind and cash assistance has been introduced to assist refugees in Eritrea.

UNHCR will persist in its efforts to reduce the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate among the refugee population from 19.2 to 18.5 per cent, and the severe acute malnutrition (SAM) rate from 4.6 to 2.1 per cent.

As in previous years, the Regional Support Hub (RSH) in Nairobi, Kenya, will provide operational support and technical advice to countries in the East and Horn of Africa, Central Africa and the Great Lakes region. A total of 23 specialist units and many deployees from NGO partners continue to provide support, especially in areas where expertise is not otherwise available within UNHCR. The RSH seeks to ensure strategic coherence, management effectiveness, accountability and financial due diligence among UNHCR operations in the region.

UNHCR's Regional Liaison Office to the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, works to ensure that displacement concerns are taken into account in the deliberations and resolutions of the African Union. Progress has been made in ensuring that African Governments ratify the AU Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa (Kampala Convention), which entered into force in December 2012, and that its various provisions are transposed into national law. These efforts will continue in 2014 and 2015.

| Financial information |

In recent years, UNHCR's financial requirements in the East and Horn of Africa have increased as a result of emergency refugee situations, including the Somali and Sudanese influxes. In 2014, the financial requirements for the subregion have increased slightly to USD 1.2 billion, from a revised 2013 budget of USD 1.17 billion. This increase is mainly related to the durable solutions strategy for Somali refugees in the region and the ongoing refugee movements into South Sudan and Uganda.

UNHCR budgets for East and Horn of Africa (USD)
Operation 2013
Revised budget
(as of 30 June 2013)
2014 2015
Total 1,174,261,296 1,076,136,761 12,567,880 15,006,956 92,682,920 1,196,394,517 1,158,577,303
Chad 196,584,975 197,069,508 0 0 0 197,069,508 160,558,342
Djibouti 26,238,538 26,956,902 0 0 0 26,956,902 27,117,547
Eritrea 5,634,386 6,261,668 0 0 0 6,261,668 6,291,482
Ethiopia 192,820,590 199,806,798 0 0 0 199,806,798 200,135,687
Ethiopia (Regional Liaison Office to the AU and ECA) 1,516,514 2,026,808 0 0 0 2,026,808 2,026,808
Kenya 251,587,167 228,651,302 370,316 0 0 229,021,618 227,612,479
Kenya Regional Support Hub 10,342,193 11,092,658 0 0 0 11,092,658 11,145,482
Somalia 55,309,260 23,920,901 0 11,401,251 34,308,286 69,630,438 79,321,574
Sudan 116,729,694 65,115,527 3,360,701 0 28,973,243 97,449,471 97,953,640
South Sudan 219,050,246 191,894,678 8,771,864 0 29,401,392 230,067,933 220,174,985
Uganda 92,376,553 113,936,841 65,000 3,605,705 0 117,607,547 118,349,359
Regional activities 6,071,180 9,403,169 0 0 0 9,403,169 7,889,918

Source: UNHCR Global Appeal 2014-2105



Statistical Snapshot*
from [2]
in [2]
* As at mid-2013
  1. Country or territory of asylum or residence. In the absence of Government estimates, UNHCR has estimated the refugee population in most industrialized countries based on 10 years of asylum-seekers recognition.
  2. Persons recognized as refugees under the 1951 UN Convention/1967 Protocol, the 1969 OAU Convention, in accordance with the UNHCR Statute, persons granted a complementary form of protection and those granted temporary protection. It also includes persons in a refugee-like situation whose status has not yet been verified.
  3. Persons who are displaced within their country and to whom UNHCR extends protection and/or assistance. It also includes persons who are in an IDP-like situation.
The data are generally provided by Governments, based on their own definitions and methods of data collection.
A dash (-) indicates that the value is zero, not available or not applicable.

Source: UNHCR/Governments.
Compiled by: UNHCR, FICSS.
Chad 48,644 434,479 19,791
Djibouti 762 20,015 0
Eritrea 308,022 3,166 0
Ethiopia 77,118 433,936 0
Kenya 8,589 534,938 0
Somalia 1,121,738 2,425 1,133,000
South Sudan
More info 114,467
An unknown number of refugees from South Sudan may be included under Sudan (in absence of separate statistics for both countries).
More info 331,097
IDP figure in South Sudan includes 155,200 people who are in an IDP-like situation.
More info 649,331
Refugee figure may include citizens of South Sudan (in absence of separate statistics for both countries).
More info 1,873,300
IDP figure in Sudan includes 77,300 people who are in an IDP-like situation.
Uganda 8,177 220,555 0

Sudan Crisis

Violence has forced tens of thousands of Sudanese to flee their homes. Find out more.

East and Horn of Africa Update

Published December 2012