Hundreds of Ethiopian COVID-19 Impacted Migrant Families Receive Food and Assistance in Kenya

Meles Alem, Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya handing over food donation to one of the beneficiaries. Photo: Kennedy Njagi/IOM

Nairobi – Over 300 Ethiopian migrants and their families today are receiving food and other essential items from IOM, the International Organization for Migration, in Nairobi, Kenya, a small effort to mitigate the broader impact of COVID-19 in the region.   

The migrants, many of whom have been living and working in Kenya for years, have lost jobs and income due to movement restrictions and curfews and the general economic slowdown, all brought by the pandemic.   

“Migrants are some of the most vulnerable people in the region and their livelihoods have been and continue to be severely impacted by COVID-19,” said Mohammed Abdiker, IOM Regional Director for East and Horn of Africa. “It is important that all partners including humanitarian agencies and governments work in tandem to alleviate the impact on these vulnerable people.”

Assfa Atiwala, a mother of five, is receiving help. She arrived in Nairobi from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2017, finding work as cleaner in homes and restaurants here in Kenya’s capital when the pandemic hit.   

“Because of the virus many of the restaurants I used to work are now closed. I can’t find work. I have not been able to pay my rent and I fear the landlord will throw me out,” Assfa told IOM.

Assfa is far from alone. There are an estimated 40,000 Ethiopian migrants living and working in Kenya.  

Many work in the informal sector, whose nature leaves migrants vulnerable to COVID-19's worst impacts. Moreover, many cannot access public services or many of the government’s public COVID-19 relief measures.  

“The food we are getting today will help cushion us for a few days,” Assfa added. “Last night we had only hot water mixed with sugar. It is hard,” Assfa said.

IOM is also providing medical assistance, such as for diabetes.  

“We are grateful to IOM for this assistance. It will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of people in need of such humanitarian assistance. We value the relationship that exists between our government and IOM,”  said Meles Alem, Ethiopian Ambassador to Kenya  

For more information, please contact Yvinne Ndege, IOM Regional Office, Nairobi. Tel +254 797735977, Email: