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Ethiopia

Children belong in families,
not orphanages

Lumos in Ethiopia

Lumos is working with partners on a new project to provide family based care to unaccompanied refugee and migrant children in the refugee camps in Shire, northern Ethiopia

There are more refugees in the world today than any other time since World War Two. Often, children become separated from their parents, or their parents are killed and they have to travel alone. Every year, refugee camps in Shire in northern Ethiopia receive thousands of Eritrean refugees escaping persecution by the State. This includes a high number of teenage boys fleeing involuntary military conscription. Currently, there are around 38,000 people in the Shire refugee camps. Around 25% of the children in these camps are unaccompanied, which means that they are not with either parent or an adult who is responsible for them. The aim of the authorities is usually to protect these unaccompanied children, but the systems to support refugees are not set up to protect children travelling alone. This means that these children often end up in detention centres or other institutions, where they are at risk of serious abuse, neglect or trafficking.

Around 25% of the children in these camps are unaccompanied, which means that they are not with either parent or an adult who is responsible for them

Lumos in Ethiopia


Lumos was asked by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) to find ways of providing safe family care for unaccompanied children. Lumos, the UNHCR and the Ethiopian government designed a programme to reduce the amount of time unaccompanied children stay in a reception centre and to move them as quickly as possible to emergency foster care. Social workers will work intensively to try to trace the children’s family members, while ensuring they are protected, well cared for and have access to education. We hope that the programme will also help reduce the number of children who leave the camp to make the perilous journey through Ethiopia, Sudan and Libya, attempting to reach Europe.

This new programme will demonstrate that it is possible to provide high-quality family care instead of institutional care for unaccompanied refugee and migrant children.

What next?


Lumos is costing out the different forms of care for unaccompanied children. This will demonstrate to major donors that it is not just possible, but actually better value, to provide high-quality, family-based care in a refugee or emergency setting. We aim to spread this model further across east Africa and beyond.