Ethiopia: helping people cope with war after nine years of peace Print E-mail
Operational update - During 2009, the ICRC assisted vulnerable communities affected by armed conflict or violence, often compounded by recurrent natural disasters. The organization also focused on restoring family links, helping people detained in the Tigray and Afar regions and promoting international humanitarian law.

Protecting those most in need

The Ethiopian authorities withdrew the ICRC's access to federal places of detention during 2009, and the organization was obliged to suspend its activities in Somali Regional State. As a result, ICRC visits to places of detention were restricted to the Afar and Tigray regions, where a number of people are still held in connection with the Eritrean-Ethiopian War, which ended in 2000. The ICRC continued to restore and maintain family links through its Red Cross message network and tracing activities.

In 2009, the ICRC:

  • conducted 12 visits in six places of detention in the Afar and Tigray regions, monitored the conditions of detention of all detainees and followed up on 130 detainees individually;
  • supplied hygiene articles and educational materials to over 7,000 detainees;
  • upgraded water, sanitation and living facilities for almost 5,000 detainees in two jails;
  • responded to requests for restoration of family links between people in Ethiopia and other countries, particularly Eritrea, Kenya and Somalia. In most cases, the ICRC succeeded in restoring contact, with the crucial support of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society (ERCS). This involved the ICRC delivering almost 6,000 Red Cross messages in Ethiopia and collecting over 7,000, receiving 80 new tracing requests and locating 131 of the 325 people for which the organization had received tracing requests.
  • relayed 24 official documents from Ethiopia to Eritrea and 18 from Eritrea to Ethiopia, enabling people to apply for admission to educational institutions or to secure employment (there is no direct communication between Ethiopia and Eritrea);
  • issued 131 travel documents to Somali nationals in Ethiopia, to facilitate their resettlement abroad.

Assisting displaced people and residents

In 2009, the country witnessed large scale ethnic clashes that forced people to flee their homes. The ICRC and the Ethiopian Red Cross provided emergency aid and support to some 32,000 displaced persons. The ICRC also continued to deliver aid to communities affected by recurrent ethnic clashes and past conflicts.

  • In the Tigray, Gambella and Afar regions, the ICRC completed a number of water and sanitation projects for the benefit of some 85,000 people who had inadequate access to clean water and decent sanitation facilities.
  • An estimated 365,000 disabled people in Ethiopia need rehabilitation services, of whom about half are believed to be war victims. The ICRC continued to support seven physical rehabilitation centres and assisted almost 9,000 people, of whom about 23% were women and 18% children. Around 460 of the people assisted were landmine victims. The centres produced 2,000 prostheses, 2,600 orthoses and 2,800 crutches, provided 775 wheelchairs and offered physiotherapy services.
  • The ICRC also:
    • signed a memorandum of understanding with the ministry of labour and social affairs regarding the training of Ethiopian orthopaedic technicians;
    • trained rehabilitation centre managers, regional authorities and NGOs;
    • trained Ethiopian technicians in wheelchair assessment, prescription, assembly and adaptation and in the production and fitting of artificial legs and hands.

Promoting international humanitarian law

The ICRC continued to promote international humanitarian law (IHL) and the ICRC mandate and activities among the authorities, bearers of weapons and different sectors of civil society.

  • The ICRC made a series of presentations on IHL and the work of the ICRC to civil servants undergoing postgraduate training at the Ethiopian Civil Service College.
  • As a follow up to the training of legal advisers of the Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) in 2008, the ICRC organized a workshop on advanced IHL issues for over 35 participants, at the request of the ENDF Legal Department.
  • The ICRC and the Ethiopian Police University College and Regional Police Training Centres have been working together for almost 10 years, and this cooperation continued in 2009. In all, 550 police personnel participated in 11 dissemination sessions on human rights and humanitarian principles. The ICRC also held two round tables on assessing the integration of human rights and humanitarian principles in teaching curricula and the performance of the training centres.
  • The ERCS and the ICRC held some 15 dissemination sessions in areas prone to conflict and violence. These involved some 600 village elders and community leaders and provided an opportunity to discuss IHL and Red Cross activities.
  • The ICRC held two seminars on reporting the humanitarian aspects of conflicts, which were attended by a total of 100 journalists.
  • Some 150 students of law, political science and journalism participated in two seminars on IHL and the Red Cross organized by the ICRC and ERCS at Addis Ababa University. About 100 students attended a similar seminar at Haramaya University and Ethiopian students participated in regional IHL competitions.

Supporting the ERCS

The ERCS and the ICRC continued to work together to deliver emergency aid, run the tracing and RCM network and promote IHL and the Fundamental Principles. The ICRC provided support and expertise to the ERCS, especially in violence-prone regions, and helped the National Society increase its capacity to address humanitarian needs in the country.

During 2009, with the help of the ICRC, the ERCS:

  • provided financial support to 28 branches, enabling them to cover their basic expenditure;
  • purchased 77 ambulances for ERCS branches;
  • provided essential household items for about 32,000 IDPs;
  • trained 21 branch staff in emergency preparedness and conducted first-aid training for over 1,400 volunteers and 275 detainees;
  • trained 60 volunteers in tracing, exchanged almost 13,500 Red Cross Messages and processed 35 tracing requests;
  • broadcast 10 television programmes and 41 radio programmes about the Red Cross/Red Crescent Movement and produced promotional material for distribution on World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day;
  • organized 35 IHL sessions, including 16 jointly with the ICRC;
  • recruited a regional dissemination officer for Somali Regional State;
  • provided one branch with a new vehicle.