|Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia is home to more than 18,000 refugees from neighboring Eritrea. (Christian Fuchs — Jesuit Refugee Service/USA)|
(Addis Ababa) March 2, 2015 — More than 18,000 refugees from Eritrea live in the Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia. Jesuit Refugee Service provides counseling and recreation services to help the residents deal with the trauma of both their flight to safety and camp life.
UNHCR reports that, as of October 31, 2014, there were 643,010 refugees in Ethiopia, of which 106,859 (17%) came from Eritrea. The population of Mai Aini at that time was 18,252 people – 12,097 men and 6,155 women.
A grant from the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration helps fund JRS efforts to promote the mental and physical well-being of refugees. JRS programs attempt to combat the endless tedium of camp life through provision of recreation activities such as sports, music, theatre and dance.
Counseling includes both group and one-on-one sessions to help the camp residents deal various psychological problems stemming from their situation.
"The refugees may have lost their parents, their property," said Hiwot Ali, the counseling coordinator for JRS at Mai Aini. "They suffer from stress, depression … and we serve them."
There is a large youth population at the camp, and the JRS sports and arts programs are designed to keep the young refugees active outside of the classroom. Camp life can be one of enforced idleness and boredom; the recreational activities provide youth a positive outlet for their energy — and encourage them to learn and use new skills in a positive social setting.
Below, photographs from last week in Mai Aini camp.
Learn more about JRS in Ethiopia