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“The international community will support the government to maintain provision of humanitarian response”

“The international community will support the government to maintain provision of humanitarian response”

Patrick McManus

Irish Aid is no stranger to Ethiopia, made famous during the Ethiopian famine of 1984 and the efforts of the likes of Sir Bob Gedloff and friends. Since then, Ireland has been richly involved in Ethiopia, in areas of aid and on the changing landscape of the nation. The head of Irish Aid Ethiopia, Patrick McManus reflects with The Reporter's Samuel Getachew on the recent activities of the organization, on the meaning of aid and how the group is aiming to make aid as a means to build capacity building in Ethiopia. Excerpts:

The Reporter: Irish Aid recently made a donation worth half-a-million dollars of goods to the displaced people of Ethiopia within the borders of Moyale. Tell me about that?

Patrick McManus: Ireland’s contribution of 118 tonnes of emergency relief supplies worth EUR 500,000 (over USD 570,000) will bring Ireland’s total funding to the international humanitarian response in Ethiopia to EUR 6.8 million (USD 7.76 million) for 2018. The supplies, which include blankets, mosquito nets, hygiene kits, kitchen sets, tents and water tanks, will be distributed by the Irish NGO Trócaire, to vulnerable households displaced due to inter-ethnic conflict in Moyale, Borena, southern Ethiopia.

What is the strategy used to deliver these goods to the intended recipients?

These emergency items will support over 2,000 of the most vulnerable households in the Tille Mado and Lagasure kebeles of Moyale woreda, Borena. The displaced families hosted in these localities were targeted for support based on the low levels of humanitarian support received to date, despite their high levels of need. Selection has taken place after careful consultation and collaboration with several relevant actors including local government, local NGOs and International NGOs and community members. Priority has been given to the most vulnerable, including female-headed households and other vulnerable segments of the community. Trócaire will work through their local partner Community Initiative Facilitation for Assistance (CIFA) to distribute the life-saving supplies.

I am aware you have been travelling in some of the affected areas of the nation, observing and announcing support in partnership with other organizations such as Plan Ethiopia. How was that like?

Myself ,  Ambassador Hyland and other embassy colleagues  over recent months have visited  many areas of Ethiopia to see for ourselves the condition of displaced populations due to conflict and  drought and the humanitarian response- including  Ji-Jigga, Gode and Warder in Somali region; East Haraghe, Yabelo , Aero and W Guji  in  Oromia; and Gedeo in Southern Regional State. It is now estimated that there are 2.6 million people internally displaced in Ethiopia due to conflict, drought or flood. Some of the conditions in which these communities now live is very difficult- especially for women and children-  many having lost their traditional (usually pastoralist ) livelihoods- and dependent as they now are on the government and the international community for basic service in shelter, food and nutrition, water and sanitation and basic health provision.  Rates of acute malnutrition and diarrhoeal related illness in children is increasing and requires constant surveillance.  At least one million of those displaced have been so for one year. The recent conflict since April 2018 in the Gedeo – W Guji region has led to up to 1 million displaced people- many of whom are living in very difficult conditions with a very real threat of outbreak of communicable disease. The government, with the support of the international community, is currently scaling up its response to this particular situation.

The international community will support the government to maintain provision of humanitarian response to those displaced while assisting the government develop its plans for returns according to international principles and norms - voluntary, dignified and safe and secure. In Somali region, worryingly, due to recent unrest, the humanitarian response has been severely impacted- with food, health and water services being slowed down or stopped altogether.

So far in 2018, Ireland has disbursed a total of 6.8 million euros for the emergency response. 4.5 million of this has gone to the Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund-  a donor pooled fund managed by UN OCHA responding to all in-country humanitarian needs- which allocates funds to government, UN and NGO humanitarian actors on a prioritized needs basis. One million euros has been disbursed to UNHCR for its work with the nearly one million refugees in the country. The balance has gone to Irish and international NGOs such as Trócaire and Plan International for the provision of emergency supplies to displaced populations

Irish Aid has been involved in support effort within Ethiopia since the mid 1980’s. Your nation is known as one that supported Ethiopia through some of its worst famine/periods. Do you think all the aid that have flown to developing nations have helped improve lives as intended?

Yes, Ireland as a country and people responded generously to the devastating famine of the 1980s – a response delivered primarily at that time through the efforts of Irish based NGOs such as CONCERN WORLDWIDE and GOAL which received funds directly from the Irish people, the Irish government and initiatives such as Live Aid. Since then Ireland has opened formal diplomatic relations (opening an embassy in 1994) with a view to establishing the full range of development, economic and cultural relations over time. Currently Ireland’s bi-lateral development cooperation programme with Ethiopia is its largest. |Ireland’s current development cooperation programme supports the Government of Ethiopia’s national development priorities- specifically in the areas of health and nutrition, smallholder agriculture/rural livelihoods and action for climate change, social protection (primarily the Productive Safety Nets programme), civil society and social accountability, and humanitarian response. The programme generally adopts a long term perspective supporting the Government’s efforts with regard to attaining sustainable pathways out of extreme poverty, for improved and durable livelihoods( especially for the rural poor), and improved access to quality basic services such as health and nutrition especially for women and children. At the same time, given the more recently demonstrable more frequent and more severe impacts of climate change in Ethiopia, Ireland’s development programme seeks to build the resilience of the most vulnerable communities to be able to anticipate and adopt to climate and other shocks in the future.

Like Ireland’s , the development programmes of most international development actors are designed to support  the Government of Ethiopia’s national development priorities. By any measure Ethiopia has done very well in terms of overall development- with an annual growth rate of between eight percent to 10 percent over the last decade, and a reduction in extreme poverty rate from over 50 percent to below 30 percent over the last 20 years. Access to basic services in health and education have also significantly improved. While much remains to be done, at least in terms of the quality of services, and absolute numbers remaining in poverty remain high, international aid has played a positive role in assisting the Government of Ethiopia in its overall development.

I have noticed all of the most recent goods donated by Irish Aid came from Dubai. This at a time when Ethiopia is attempting to make the nation a manufacturing hub of the region. Why not purchase locally?

With at least 2.6 million people currently displaced within Ethiopia, the demand for emergencies supplies was, and is, both enormous and urgent. Government and the international community adopted a mixed strategy of sourcing such items both locally and internationally. Very quickly local sources began to be depleted- and local suppliers often found it difficult to scale up to meet the sudden demand as the production of some items required the importation of raw material- e.g. raw plastic for the production of plastic jerry cans.  Some items are also specialist in nature- such as special types of disinfectant- and not immediately available in the country. Ireland adopted a mixed strategy- the Trócaire supplies (see above) were imported from Ireland’s pre- positioned stores in Dubai- which were immediately available for dispatch. Ireland has also funded Plan International (EUR 100,000) to source emergency items locally. Our general policy is to always source locally where possible and to use internationally-sourced supplies only when the required items cannot be rapidly procured in-country.

Aid is ideally seen to be a short-term strategy. What are some of the strategies Irish Aid Ethiopia uses to make something that is used to empower, not make people dependent on aid?

Irish Aid has been very active in working with and building the capacity of Ethiopian Civil Society. It does this through its support of two large national programmes- the Ethiopia Social Accountability programme (ESAP) and the Civil Society Support programme (CSSP). These are joint donor programmes that work with the government and seek to empower communities and civil society as a whole to hold government to account regarding the delivery of services and to advocate for the improvement of services generally. Ultimately these programmes support the development of an active and empowered civil society, thereby building up participative democracy and a more open society in Ethiopia.