Reuters.com -- Ethiopian women and girls who travel to the Middle East in search of work are often treated like slaves and abused sexually, the International Organization for Migration (IMO) said.
"Ethiopian women and girls who migrate to Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia suffer from maltreatment, physical, sexual and emotional abuses," the IMO said in a report based on interviews with 443 women returning from the region.
Some 130,000 Ethiopian women and children have migrated to the Gulf States and other parts of the region looking for work, the organization said the report, which was issued on Wednesday.
"Extreme cases of physical trauma, death and suicide had also been reported as consequences of physical, emotional and sexual abuses of young girls and women who migrated to the Gulf states," the IOM said.
The study urged the Ethiopian government to create more jobs locally or give legal and diplomatic protection to Ethiopian migrant workers, who are estimated to be remitting around $78 million a year to families at home.
The United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF) said in a separate report that Ethiopia had an estimated 4.6 million orphans, more than one quarter of them orphaned by HIV/AIDS.
Twenty percent of the orphans are engaged in child labor, mainly as domestic workers, for more than 40 hours a week and 6.1 percent of them are forced to beg, the UNICEF report said.
A survey conducted in 1996 estimated that there were some 150,000 street children in the country, and that the number was increasing by as many as 5,000 every year, UNICEF said.
It said 6,000 street girls between the ages of 13 and 16 were engaged in commercial sex.
Ethiopia has a population of 72 million and is one of the world's poorest countries.