ADDIS ABABA: The bodies of 38 migrants, including children, have been recovered after a shipwreck off the Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, the UN said on Tuesday, the latest disaster on the so-called Eastern migration route.

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration said that the boat was carrying 66 people when it sank in the early hours of Monday. The tragedy took place just 200 metres (yards) off the coast of Godoria in the northeast of Djibouti, the agency said.

“Thirty-eight bodies have been recovered. 22 survivors are being assisted by IOM and local authorities,” IOM regional spokesperson Yvonne Ngede said.

She said those on the boat included women, children and babies and that most of them were believed to be Ethiopian nationals.

In a post on X accompanied by a picture of white body bags lined up on a beach, the IOM said at least six other people were missing and presumed dead after the “tragic shipwreck”.

The Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti said the accident involved a boat carrying around 60 Ethiopian migrants from Djibouti to war-torn Yemen.

Each year, many tens of thousands of African migrants brave the perilous “Eastern Route” across the Red Sea and through war-scarred Yemen to reach Saudi Arabia, escaping conflict, or natural disaster or seeking better economic opportunities.

“On their journeys, many face life-threatening dangers including starvation, health risks and exploitation — at the hands of human traffickers and other criminals,” the IOM said in a statement in February.

Africa’s second most populous country, Ethiopia is blighted by various conflicts and several regions have suffered from severe drought in recent years. More than 15 percent of its some 120 million inhabitants depend on food aid.

The Ethiopian embassy in Djibouti said that in the last five years, 189 of its citizens making the journey had lost their lives in boat accidents alone.

Published in Dawn, April 10th, 2024

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