Background and news
Ethiopia is still scarred by two years of civil war in the Tigray region and a catastrophic drought, closely linked to climate change. More than 20 million people are suffering from hunger out of the 120 million inhabitants of this country, which is the second most populated in Africa. The humanitarian situation has deteriorated since 2021, leading to an increase in humanitarian needs throughout the country. The cumulative impact of ongoing conflicts, climatic disasters such as drought and, more recently, floods, are the main factors. In 2022, more than 29 million people were in need of humanitarian aid and protection. By 2023, almost three-quarters of those in need will be women and children. Extreme drought conditions lead to livestock losses and reduced household access to food and income. This situation, combined with ongoing inter-ethnic conflicts, is leading to major population displacements, particularly in the Amhara and Oromiya regions.
In the north of the country, the Amhara region has been hard hit by a serious humanitarian crisis linked to the conflict in the neighbouring region of Tigray (November 2020-November 2022). This unprecedentedly violent conflict has seriously disrupted and even destroyed essential public services, particularly water and health infrastructures. The human toll has been terrible, and the impact on families’ livelihoods has been tremendous. As the conflict has spread to the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, humanitarian needs have increased throughout the north of the country. By the end of 2022, the food security and malnutrition situation had deteriorated further, with millions of people in these three regions in need of assistance. Internally displaced people are living in overcrowded conditions, often in extreme conditions, and everywhere women and children are the first victims. In 2023, malnutrition continues to rise at an alarming rate. The situation is particularly dramatic in the North Wollo area.
In the south of the country, in the Oromiya region, the Borena zone, which shares a border with northern Kenya, has an estimated population of 1.2 million, 91% of whom live in a rural environment. The district (woreda) of Yabello, the administrative centre of the region, is located around 570 km from Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. The drought in this southern region has been unprecedented. Most of the water sources have dried up, forcing women and children to walk long distances to access water, which is often drawn from unprotected springs. In addition, heavy flooding in the spring of 2023 damaged a number of water points. Lack of maintenance of water sources and poor hygiene and sanitation conditions led to the outbreak of a cholera epidemic. Pastoral communities throughout the region have been badly affected by the prolonged drought. Tens of thousands of households have lost their livestock and tens of thousands more are internally displaced and living in camps. Malnutrition has increased dramatically among children under five, pregnant and breast-feeding women, and the elderly.
SOS Children’s Villages in Ethiopia
SOS Children’s Villages in Ethiopia has been present in the country since 1974, supporting some 86,000 children, young people and adults in eight locations (including Addis Ababa, Harar and Gode) through its alternative care and family separation prevention programmes, education – the association works in schools – and health programmes.
Since 2015, it has developed solid experience in alternative care programmes for unaccompanied refugee children in the Tigray region. In the Amhara region, particularly in the North Wollo area, the association runs community-based acute malnutrition management programmes to support community efforts to provide quality food for infants and young children, as well as pregnant and breast-feeding women. The association also regularly intervenes in emergencies to support vulnerable communities facing recurrent natural disasters, drought and food insecurity, as well as violent conflicts. The association is an active member of coordination forums, and Ethiopia is one of the five countries where Joining Forces for Africa (JOFA) was set up in 2020, the first joint project of the Joining Forces consortium bringing together the six largest NGOs committed to protecting children and defending their rights.