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Ethiopia’s porous border situation high risk for Coronaviurs spread

The border with Sudan has become the latest threat in terms of the spread of Coronavirus in Ethiopia

Google Map of Ethiopia and its neighbors

May 22, 2020

One of the measures that Ethiopia took after the confirmation of the first coronavirus case in the country sometime in early March this year was to close all land borders to six neighboring countries.

As it turns out, many of the borders proved to be porous. Based on information from the Ministry of Health, most of the latest confirmed cases of Coronavirus relate to individuals with a travel history to the neighboring countries – especially Sudan, Somalia, and Djibouti.

The pattern of Illegal entry to Ethiopia seems to be from those three counties, too.  Human trafficking is part of the story in illegal entry (and exit) even in this time of coronavirus situation.

A report by Deutsche Welle Amharic service reported on Friday that illegal entry and human trafficking have become a serious threat in the Amhara region of Ethiopia.

Keshen Wolde is head of the social development department head in the zone. In light of the current pattern of the cross-border mobility of people, her department forecasts that the spread of Coronavirus out of control not only in the Amhara region but also in the entire country.

On average 100 to 150 people cross the Ethio-Sudan border in the West Gondar Zone of the Amhara region which is said to share about 400 kilometers of border with Sudan.  

“The task of border control in the area is beyond the capacity of the authorities in the region,” she said. Temesgen Tiruneh, head of Amhara regional state, said he is trying to coordinate with the Federal government to tackle problems related to illegal entry from Sudan and Djibouti.

There are nine quarantine centers in the region, and 965 people are serving the mandatory two weeks of isolation at this time. Samples from 236 people have been tested for coronavirus and 12 people are confirmed to have contracted the virus.

The rate of infection is also increasing in North Shoa. DW Amharic report cited Mrs.Tsedale Semuneguse who is deputy head of North Shoa zone health department as saying that “the main challenge comes from those who arrived from abroad.”  And this zone is affected by Ethiopians who return from Djibouti.

Last week, the Ethiopian government announced plans to open five more border checkpoints in a bid to control illegal entry which is making Ethiopia more vulnerable to the spread of Coronavirus.

As of May 22, the number of confirmed Coronavirus in Ethiopia cases has reached 433.  More confirmed cases have been registered in the past two or three weeks than the past two and half months.

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  1. Opening new checkpoints will help but it will not eliminate the problem. It is like putting a complete stop to illegal crossings. Name one country with thousands of miles of borderlines that has found success in such endeavor. Advanced countries with all their electronic sensors, drones and billions of dollars allocated just for such purpose have not found a one hundred percent success yet. In our old country there are deep seated traditional values that will make such endeavor extremely hard. We can raise the term citizenship here and there but when it comes to the border areas you can kiss and goodbye to that. Forget about it!!! Those of you who are from the regions with proximities to borders know what I am talking about. Unless all involved countries are able to convince and obtain the full cooperation of elders in the effort, it will continue to be a tall order.


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