Ethiopia Overtakes Kenya as Africa’s Largest Host of Refugees

Ethiopia surpassed Kenya to become the largest host country of refugees in Africa, driven by a conflict in South Sudan that has forced 188,000 across the border since the start of this year, the United Nations said.

Ethiopia held a refugee population of 629,718 by the end of July compared with 575,334 registered refugees and asylum seekers in Kenya, UN Refugee Agency spokesman Adrian Edwards said today in an e-mailed statement from Geneva. The nationalities among those living at Ethiopia’s 23 UN-backed camps and five transit sites are 247,000 South Sudanese, joined by 245,000 Somalis and 99,0000 Eritreans, Edwards said.

Violence that erupted in Juba, South Sudan’s capital, in mid-December after President Salva Kiir accused his former deputy Riek Machar of staging a failed coup, has led to a broader conflict with ethnic dimensions, leaving thousands of people dead. A ceasefire agreement first reached January through mediated talks has failed to prevent bouts of fighting between government forces and rebels concentrated in oil-rich areas.

The clashes have displaced 1.9 million people, more than a quarter of whom fled to neighboring countries, according to the UN. South Sudan itself hosts 243,000 refugees, the majority from Sudan, from which it split in 2011, he UN said.

Rains have caused flooding in some Ethiopian camps holding refugees in recent weeks, exposing people staying there to the threat of water-borne diseases and making living conditions even more difficult, Edwards said. The UN is building two more camps to move people from temporary locations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at Ana Monteiro, Vernon Wessels

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