The region is host to some of the largest, longstanding refugee and displaced person populations in the world. As of 31 December 2017, refugee and asylum-seeker numbers stood at 5.22 million in the Horn of Africa and Great Lakes region, whilst an additional estimated 5.77 million people were internally displaced in Burundi, Ethiopia, Somalia, and South Sudan.  

The causes of forced migration are many and complex: protracted and recurrent conflicts, fragile peace agreements, localized instability, scarce natural resources, poverty, poor livelihood opportunities and climate and environmental changes.  Droughts, floods and other environmental hazards are increasing in intensity and frequency due to climate change, causing havoc with local economies and mass human displacements.  The health implications of such large-scale displacements can be disastrous, particularly in countries with weakened or devastated health systems.  

In the East and Horn of Africa the Department of Operations and Emergencies (DOE) provides technical and administrative support and oversight to IOM missions implementing humanitarian, transition and recovery programmes.

Humanitarian Preparedness and Response: IOM activities range from data collection and analysis on displacement and mobility trends; capacity building of partners and stakeholders in displacement management, and; humanitarian response to life-saving needs including distribution of non-food items (NFIs), provision of emergency shelter, camp coordination and camp management, registration of displaced populations, health and psychosocial support, water and sanitation and cluster coordination, amongst others.

Transition and Recovery: IOM’s Transition and recovery work complements humanitarian assistance activities, building on humanitarian gains to ensure an effective, sustainable transition to recovery and development in a range of crisis contexts and across technical areas . In coordination with partners and stakeholders, supporting governments in preventing, mitigating the impacts of, and seeking solutions to, crisis-induced displacement and large scale irregular migration.  It equally provides support to address medium- to longer-term needs of crisis affected populations, including through promotion of early recovery; support to livelihoods and income generation; promotion of social cohesion and peacebuilding, and; facilitation of durable solutions, in addition to disaster risk reduction snd environmental degradation. When appropriate, IOM also engages in programming that addresses the root causes of crises, including through contextualized interventions that aim to prevent violent extremism, reduce community violence, sustainably reintegrate former combatants, reform the security sector, and support elections, such as through technical support to promote the enfranchisement of disenfranchised populations.

Refugee Resettlement: IOM works closely with governments, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), non-government organizations and other partners to provide resettlement services, including Case Processing, Health Assessments, Pre-Departure Orientation and Movement Operations. Upon arrival, resettlement countries provide refugees with legal and physical protection, including access to civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights similar to those enjoyed by nationals.