NGOs Helping Women in EthiopiaIn August of 2023, a sixth-month-long state of emergency was declared and government curfews were enforced as more conflict in Ethiopia erupted, only nine months after the end of a devastating two-year civil war. As a result of turbulent political conflict, more waves of violence have broken out in the northern Amhara region. 

With the second largest population in Africa, the country is still feeling the effects of the initial conflict that began over two years ago. At least 5.1 million people were displaced in 12 months, which is “the most people internally displaced in any country in any single year.”

Two years on, in 2023, the U.N. requested $4 billion to provide aid to twenty million people still affected by the conflict, including more than four million internally displaced people. 

The Impact of Conflict on Women

With such destructive conflict there always comes a surge in gender-based violence. In the last civil war, nearly 26,000 women and girls reported experiencing sexual violence. Due to the sensitive nature of the topic as well as powerful social stigma, the majority of cases are not reported meaning that this number is thought to be much higher. 

With the absence of strong welfare services and the intense conflict in Ethiopia aggravating this need, many women rely on nonprofit organizations that are committed to helping women and girls affected by the violence.

Ethiopia Aid and AWSAD’s Safe Houses

Ethiopia Aid is dedicated to “breaking the cycle of poverty by enabling the poorest and most vulnerable to live with dignity,” as stated in their mission. Over 80% of the adults that they help are women, and their projects have aimed to tackle the lack of education for girls, poor menstrual health resources and female genital mutilation (FGM). 

The organization’s current appeal is focused on ensuring the maternal health of the thousands of women who have been displaced by the conflict in Ethiopia and are living in crowded camps with too few resources.

The organization has partnered with The Association for Women’s Sanctuary (AWSAD) which provides nine safe houses for women and girls at risk of violence or who have fled and suffered traumatic experiences. These safe houses not only provide a space for women and their children to recover but allow them to socialize with others whilst also providing quality care, support services, therapy, basic literacy and numeracy classes and legal follow-up. 

UN Women

U.N. Women have partnered with Norwegian Church Aid to address social attitudes and norms that contribute to gender-based violence. The initiative was started by Tegenie, a gender-based violence expert in 2021 after he saw the impacts of child marriage on his sisters. He explains how such violence “has spiked amid the brutal two-year conflict, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic, which have trapped women and girls in vulnerable conditions.”

To tackle this spike, the initiative aims to social norms at the roots by holding community conversations led by trained facilitators, where the ramifications of child marriage and violence against women are discussed. They have also made it their priority to rally community leaders who have a significant social influence, as well as faith leaders to ensure that they are not promoting harmful practices. By creating open conversations, Tegenie and his team hope to engage all members of the community with these issues, and insight meaningful, long-term social change

Women for Women’s Conflict Response Fund

This organization’s Conflict Response Fund (CRF) worked with three other organizations: Agar Ethiopia Charitable Society, Association for Women’s Sanctuary and Development and Mums for Mums. Each works to support survivors of sexual violence as a result of war and the conflict in Ethiopia and has reached thousands of women, providing safe housing, psychological support and health care.

While there is no immediate end to the turbulence in Ethiopia in sight, these organizations and their dedicated members will continue working tirelessly to support the women affected and continue to have an immense impact on the lives of thousands.

– Maia Winter
Photo: Flickr

Food Insecurity in TigrayConflict in Northern Ethiopia between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian government has displaced more than 1.8 million people, creating dozens of refugee camps across the region. Living conditions in the camps soon became characterized by food scarcity and a lack of basic rights. International humanitarian organizations such as the U.N. partnered with the Ethiopian government to provide aid supplies to the refugees. Even with the temporary end of the conflict inaugurated by the cease-fire in November 2022 and the outside humanitarian aid, conditions in the camp remained precarious. 

Lack of Access to Basic Needs in the Wake of the Aid Suspension

Recently, the encampments have been plunged once more into profound insecurity. Because of nefarious groups’ organized theft of the humanitarian food relief meant for the refugees of the Tigray region, organizations, such as the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), suspended their deliveries in June, leaving many in a precarious position. Refugees already suffered from extreme food insecurity in Tigray and often faced malnutrition and malnutrition-related health conditions. The relief cut-off has only exacerbated an already precarious situation. 

Months after the aid suspension, deliveries still have not resumed. The U.S. and the U.N. have demanded that the Ethiopian government relinquish control of the food relief distribution system in light of the discovered thefts. Until Ethiopian officials do so, the U.S. and U.N. withhold the necessary food and oil supplies for fear that the government will not transmit them to the refugees. The stolen food is equivalent to the number of rations needed to feed the 134,000 people in the Tigray town for a month, and medical supplies are also missing. 

An investigation revealed that multiple shipments of grain provided by USAID were sold for profit in different local markets. Both the Ethiopian government and Tigray rebel fighters have been accused of confiscating the food meant for refugees to feed their demobilized armed forces. Some have also accused the Ethiopian government of diverting the aid meant for the region as a strategy to weaken the region and use starvation as a method of warfare by encouraging food insecurity in Tigray.

Local Nonprofit Centers Overwhelmed by Demand

An estimated 20 million people across Ethiopia rely on these foreign aid deliveries. Some refugees described having to resort to gathering seeds from the surrounding grounds to sustain their families. Others indicated not being able to eat for days at a time. The increase in malnutrition has led to a rise in nutritional deficiency-related diseases, with many refugee children presenting developmental delays. With limited access to aid from the more prominent international organizations, local nonprofit centers have been instrumental in keeping communities across the country afloat. 

The Salesians of Don Bosco have been especially instrumental, regularly helping thousands across the region. With Salesian missionaries’ particularity of living in the communities they support, they are uniquely informed on what community members require by building community bonds with those in need. The Salesian nonprofit centers and other nonprofit organizations are, however, overwhelmed in the wake of the aid suspension. Thousands gather outside the doors of the aid centers, yet they are simply unable to meet the immense demand, and the return of international aid is urgently needed. 

Looking Ahead

The U.N. is currently testing out different initiatives in certain parts of Tigray that use new methods of food assistance and delivery. The U.N. designed these testing initiatives to find an effective method to enable adequate control and surveillance of food deliveries, safeguarding against possible thefts, and hopefully, soon allowing the resumption of large-scale food assistance programs in the region. 

– Tatiana Gnuva
Photo: Flickr

Humanitarian Crisis in EthiopiaFor the second year in a row, Ethiopia has ranked second on the International Rescue Committee (IRC) Emergency Watchlist, indicating that it is one of the countries most threatened by a growing humanitarian crisis in 2023. As Africa’s oldest sovereign nation, it has the second-highest population on the continent, with an estimated 116,462,712 inhabitants in 2023, according to the CIA World Factbook. Additionally, Ethiopia has the third highest refugee population in Africa, hosting over 924,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mainly from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Thus, the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia poses a great threat to many.

According to the IRC, 28.6 million people living in Ethiopia currently require humanitarian aid, 20 million are suffering from food insecurity, 3.5 million have been internally displaced and 31.9 million are struggling with the impacts of continuous drought. There is a need for urgent action to alleviate the worsening humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia.

Factors Contributing to the Humanitarian Crisis in Ethiopia

Several factors have contributed to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, including ongoing drought, conflict, food insecurity, economic instability, disease outbreaks, climate shocks, the war in Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, in November 2020, armed conflict between the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, a nationalist rebel group, left thousands dead and millions internally displaced. Although a peace deal was announced in November 2022, fighting continues in the Tigray region. This has posed numerous risks and challenges to providing sufficient aid for the region’s 5.2 million inhabitants, almost 40% of whom suffer from an extreme lack of necessary food resources. Ongoing conflict elsewhere in Ethiopia, for example in the country’s Somali region, has similarly disrupted aid efforts while exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Furthermore, an unpredictable climate has worsened the crisis. Continually threatened by drought, Ethiopia is now entering its sixth consecutive season without sufficient rainfall. As a result, many Ethiopians face the risk of starvation and lack of access to safe drinking water. These issues have led to cholera outbreaks, weakening the immune systems of affected people due to undernutrition. Children, in particular, are suffering from food scarcity and insufficient nourishment.

At the same time, heavy rains and flooding have threatened livelihoods, displaced people and destroyed shelters in the Oromia, Somalia and Afar regions. The resulting death of cattle has been devastating, as many Ethiopians rely on livestock and agriculture for income and sustenance.

Economic Challenges

Economic instability has only heightened the severity of the situation. Globally rising prices and supply disruptions have added to Ethiopia’s economic strain and made vital resources increasingly scarce. In May 2022, inflation in the country reached a 37.7% high and, while it has since lowered, food prices remain at a peak. With Ethiopia relying heavily on imports to meet the country’s demand for wheat, globally increasing prices of fuel, fertilizers, steel, iron and other such products in light of the war in Ukraine are having detrimental effects.

Humanitarian Aid to Ethiopia

Despite attempts to deliver aid to Ethiopia, insufficient funding has hindered the humanitarian response. Health assistance has only reached 12% of people in need in drought-affected areas, and less than 30% have gained access to water, sanitation and hygiene equipment.

The IRC has, however, been providing support to refugees in Ethiopia, as well as to those most affected by drought and fighting since 2000. The organization has also extended its relief efforts to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19. It has partnered with local organizations to deliver supplies to vulnerable communities and implement safe water supply systems and sanitation facilities. Moreover, the IRC has worked to strengthen community healthcare, train teachers and provide training and job opportunities for young people and households considered at high risk.

Alongside the IRC, the United Nations Refugee Agency has collaborated with the Ethiopian government and local organizations to help aid and protect millions of refugees displaced by conflict. The U.N. agency’s relief efforts have included providing emergency shelters, safe drinking water, food, blankets, sleeping mats and other resources to those fleeing conflict in Tigray.

The U.S. has also thus far contributed around $714 million to the 2023 Ethiopian Humanitarian Response Plan, and Germany, Japan and Sweden have contributed some $14 million to the 2023 Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund.

Looking Ahead

While these efforts offer growing hope, a recent report issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) makes clear that further support “is urgent and critical.” In other words, only with such support can humanitarian efforts continue, expand and succeed in giving the many who are afflicted by ongoing conflict and disaster in Ethiopia a fair chance at life.

Bethan Marsden
Photo: Flickr

Displacement in Ethiopia
Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians are in need of humanitarian aid due to ongoing violence as well as extreme weather conditions.

Causes of Displacement in Ethiopia

According to a recent report cited by Relief Web, “Ethiopia has seen the highest number of people forced to flee their homes within their country in the first half of 2018 [than any other country globally].” Conflict has caused some 1.4 million to flee their homes in search of safety. This has been largely due to new ethnic tensions in Gedeo and West Guji region in southern Ethiopia and ongoing violence in the Oromia-Somali border region.

The areas hosting internally displaced persons in Ethiopia are overcrowded and struggling to satisfy basic needs such as food, water and health care services. The rainy season is also making the problem worse and hindering the humanitarian response.

As a result of the El Niño induced drought between 2015 and 2016, water scarcity has become another key driver of displacement in Ethiopia. Furthermore, in 2017, 5.6 million people in Ethiopia required emergency food assistance. There are also 2.7 million children and pregnant mothers that need supplementary feeding, 9.2 million people need access to safe drinking water and 1.9 million households need livestock support. The Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) was revised in 2017 to address the growing need for support. The needs in the food sector have been increased to reach a larger number of beneficiaries through the inclusion of 4 million former Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) clients in the HRD. Health and nutrition needs have also increased to address displacement.

Humanitarian Response to Displacement in Ethiopia

Severe drought in South Omo Zone in 2017 resulted in 40,000 livestock casualties. The Ethiopian Red Cross, with support from the Austrian Red Cross, has helped to bring back livestock due to the drought. The organizations distributed 2,100 goats in the worst drought-affected households in this region, with a total of 350 households given six goats each.

The Ethiopian and Austrian Red Cross has also distributed 3,000 moringa plants to the Hamer community in Southern Ethiopia. These drought-resistant and fast-growing trees are able to live in harsh arid environments, which will provide the community with food sources year round. These trees have been used in the past to combat malnutrition, as the seed pods and leaves are consumed as vegetables, and other parts of the trees are used for herbal medicine. Moringa is also used as forage for livestock, which ensures that Ethiopians and their livestock are both fed.

Addressing the Impact of Flooding

Ethiopia was struck by severe flooding in July 2018, affecting 2.5 million people, over 600,000 of whom are expected to be displaced in the northern, north-eastern, central, western, south-western and eastern Ethiopia. The National Disaster Risk Management Commision (NDRMC) has distributed 182 quintals of food baskets in affected areas in response to the flooding. The NDRMC has also distributed 14 cartons of milk and 63 cartons of biscuits, along with 502 nonfood items including kettles and plastic jugs.

Displacement in Ethiopia can be attributed to bad weather such as droughts and floods, as well as the ongoing ethnic tensions in certain regions. Humanitarian support from the NDRMC and Red Cross have tremendously assisted those in need.

– Casey Geier
Photo: Flickr