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“Faith is a major thing. Without praying, we cannot manage our life. We are restricted here; there is not enough food, not enough water, we can’t work, we can’t move from place to place.

“Faith is making our life a little bit easier.”

Also making life a little bit easier are “livelihood programs,” according to the social workers of J.R.S.

One beneficiary of such a program is a 26-year-old mother named Abrehet, who receives a modest salary for sewing sanitary pads and diapers in the camp.

“It is satisfying to get paid for what you do,” she says with a shy smile.

She has been living here for the past eight years with her family.

“I don’t have the money to leave the camp. If I had, I would try my best, but it’s a risk to go outside.”

In an effort to convince people not to flee illegally, Ethiopia recently launched a comprehensive refugee response plan that is part of the Global Compact on Refugees. This ambitious plan was conceived by the United Nations in 2016 to promote self-reliance. Indeed, the government of Ethiopia is planning to stop its “encampment policy” in the next ten years. As a result, refugees will be integrated into society by granting work permits and legal documents so they may be hired within Ethiopia — especially in its industrial parks that are central to foreign investors.

“It can be a good opportunity to help ourselves,” Abrehet explains in her tiny house. “We don’t really know the situation outside the camp, though.”

Her husband, Abrahale, left the camp for the first time recently for training. He earns 700 birr per month as a social worker — roughly $25 — for helping J.R.S.

Despite the boredom and tedium of life in the camp, he is reluctant to leave. “I have a family, I can’t give them up,” Abrahale, 35, says. But this situation is stressful.

“I’m fed up,” he says in front of his wife and elder daughter.

“I become hopeless waiting for this resettlement.”

Many in the camp are looking forward to getting the famous letter they call “Congra,” for “congratulations.” When they receive it, that means they are eligible to resettle in the West, and can leave soon. They dream of the day that letter arrives — and dream, too, of a better life somewhere, somehow.

All they want is the chance.

But for now, all they can do is wait.

And pray. And hope.

“I’ll work anywhere where I can find a good job,” Abrahal says.

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Emeline Wuilbercq is a French journalist based in Addis Ababa where she serves as a correspondent for the African edition of Le Monde. Her work has appeared in Jeune Afrique and The Guardian, among other publications.



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