When you hear about Ethiopia, you might think of the widespread 1980’s famine and the world response that followed with Bob Geldof and Band Aid in the lead. Even now many people’s perceptions of Ethiopia are coloured by such vivid images. But did you know that Ethiopia has been going through ground breaking democratic changes over the last one and a half year, that it’s Prime Minister has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, and that the country recently broke the world record in tree planting? Join us in reading about what’s going on in Africa’s second most populous country and what ZOA is doing to support people here!
Peace with Eritrea after 20 years of cold war
As the new Prime Minister Dr Abiy Ahmed was installed in the beginning of April 2018, major reforms have swept through the country. One of the major promises delivered upon was to end the cold war between Ethiopia and Eritrea which has lasted more than 20 years. Since then, Ethiopia has played a critical role in the peace talks in Sudan, bringing warring parties in South Sudan to the negotiation table and sent out messages of peace to war torn countries like Yemen. Inside the country, tens of thousands of political prisoners have been released, prohibited media sites and media houses have been opened up, political opposition parties has been welcomed home and the country is now preparing for the elections that are coming up next year.
A ground-breaking refugee proclamation
Ethiopia is host to one of the largest refugee populations in the world – the second largest in Africa – , and has taken bold steps to create an enabling environment where refugees are not confined to camps and aid distributions, but where they can work, move around freely and contribute to the societies they live in.
Early in 2019, Ethiopia adopted a new refugee proclamation, and, in taking up the new opportunities to support refugeees that this policy allows ZOA is now piloting innovative livelihood programmes in various areas, which will help people who have fled their home countries to find sustainable livelihoods in their new host country.
NGOs can do their work in a better way
For NGOs working in Ethiopia, an important milestone has been achieved as the new law governing civil society organisations was adopted in 2019. NGOs are now allowed to engage in activities such as lobbying & advocacy, international NGOs can implement their programmes through local NGOs and there are less bureaucratic restraints on how NGO’s are administered. Through civil society consultations and with civil society representatives on the drafting committee, the new law gives more of an enabling framework. For ZOA’s team in Ethiopia, this means that implementing programmes through local partner organizations, and thereby building local capacity, will play a more significant role in our programmes in the years ahead.
In this hopeful era of democratization in Ethiopia, challenges still remain. It will take time to transform the bureaucratic culture which characterized the Ethiopian government for decades, and newly appointed government officials will need to introduce new, more open ways of doing business and serving their communities. Community tensions that were previously repressed are now beginning to surface in many places, including in ZOA programme areas. In Somali region alone, over one million internally displaced persons have sought refuge due to ethnic conflicts along the border with Oromia Region. ZOA has been responding with large scale relief programmes to ensure that people have roofs over their head, and by providing essentials to uphold their dignity and basic sanitary conditions.
As drought is a persistent challenge in this region, ZOA has also provided safe drinking water to tens of thousands of people in need. Reforms such as the new refugee proclamation is also challenged by opposition in some regions and ZOA is working to ensure that our support is equally rendered to host communities as well as refugees in those areas.
When people need relief, hope and recovery, ZOA is an organization that people rely on in the remote areas where we operate. By building local capacity, whilst responding to emergencies, we are positive that we will be able to bring a positive change to the communities and people we aim to serve by working hand in hand!