ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Unemployed and shunned as possible coronavirus carriers, Ethiopian migrant laborers are returning home by the thousands, placing a huge strain on Ethiopia’s poorly equipped medical system.
More than 30,000 workers have re-entered Ethiopia since mid-March, according to the government, some of them after suffering abuse and detention in unhealthy conditions in the countries they left, often on the Persian Gulf or in other parts of Africa.
At least 927 migrant laborers were infected with the virus when they returned, Ethiopian officials say, but the true number is probably much higher. The government has not updated that figure for more than a month, and it does not include those who have slipped back into the country unnoticed.
Ethiopia has had more than 16,000 confirmed infections and 250 Covid-19 deaths, according to figures compiled by The New York Times. Those are very low counts for a nation of 115 million people, but the numbers are rising and many cases go undetected by the country’s sparse testing.