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IRIN - Ethiopia





 



Ethnic violence displaces hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 11:16:32 +0000

Lifting her robe the young woman revealed undulating scar tissue blanketing her breasts, stomach, and extending up her neck and along her arms. “They poured petrol over me then lit it,” said 28-year-old Husaida Mohammed. “They were Somali boys.” When IRIN met Mohammed she was in a camp of about 3,500 displaced Oromo people on the outskirts of Harar, the ancient walled city in Ethiopia’s Harari Region. It had taken her over a month to make the 100-kilometre journey to safety from Jijiga, the capital of Ethiopia’s far eastern Somali Region. For weeks she lay hidden in an empty Oromo-owned house tended to by friends as she recovered from her injuries. Next to her in the large warehouse being used to shelter the displaced was a woman in a striking pink robe. She had no visible injuries but didn’t utter a word. “She was throttled so badly they damaged her vocal chords,” a doctor explained. “She can’t eat anything, only drink fluids.” Tit-for-tat ethnic violence in Ethiopia’s two largest regions of Oromia and Somali began in September and has forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. Local media have reported upwards of 200,000 displaced, humanitarian workers at the camps talk of 400,000.  Chronology  The unrest began when two Oromo officials were reportedly killed on the border between the two territories, allegedly by Somali Region police.  On 12 September, protests by Oromo in the town of Aweday, between Harar and the city of Dire Dawa, led to rioting that left 18 dead. The majority were Somali khat traders, a mildly narcotic leaf widely chewed. Somalis who fled Aweday said the number of dead was closer to 40. In response to Aweday, the Somali Regional government began evicting Oromo from Jigjiga and the region. Officials say this was for the Oromo’s own safety, and that no Oromo died as a result of ethnic violence in the region – a claim disputed by those displaced. In addition to the camps around Harar and Dire Dawa – cities viewed as neutral safe havens – they have popped up elsewhere along the contentious regional border. In these camps Oromo and Somali tell equally convincing stories of ethnic violence. They accuse the regional special police – in the Somali Region known as the Liyu, and the Oromia version, referred to by Somalis as Liyu Hail – of being behind many of the attacks*. Both regional governments deny their police forces were involved. The federal government faces fierce accusations ranging from not doing enough, to deliberately turning a blind eye to the violence. The Oromo see this as punishment after their year of protests against the ruling party that led to a state of emergency. There has also been a legacy of distrust of the Somali Region in Addis Ababa. The perception is that among the population there is revanchist sympathy for the idea of a Greater Somalia. Another possibility is that the government simply has not had the capacity to effectively respond, so widespread has been the violence. Oromia and Somali share a 1,400-kilometre long border. The Oromo are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, numbering about 35 million, a factor Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups remain deeply conscious of – especially its 6.5 million Somalis. James Jeffrey/IRIN Victim of the violence History of strife and harmony Ethnic conflict along the common border and in the rural hinterland has long existed – with Oromo migration a particular source of friction. The ongoing drought, which has put pressure on pasture and resources, could be another. “As you move west of the regional border the land becomes higher with more water and pasture,” said the head of a humanitarian organisation who spoke on condition of anonymity over the sensitivity of the issues. “Where the regional border runs is very contentious – you’ll find different maps giving a different border,” he added. In 2004, a referendum to decide the fate of more than 420 kebeles around the border—Ethiopia’s smallest administrat[...]



Why can’t booming Ethiopia handle this year’s drought?

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 09:59:30 +0000

Ethiopia can’t seem to escape the blight of drought, no matter how hard it tries. Despite impressive economic growth and decades of capacity building, it faces another humanitarian crisis as one of the worst droughts in living memory scorches the Horn of Africa. At the beginning of the year, 5.6 million Ethiopians were in need of food aid, primarily in the south and southeast of the country. That number recently jumped to 8.5 million. An additional headache is that this year’s response by the government and international partners is proving less decisive than last year’s effort. In 2016, more than 10 million people were reached, food aid poured in, and the government spent hundreds of millions of its own money averting a major humanitarian catastrophe. Why are the numbers in need increasing? The January estimate of 5.6 million came from the government’s Humanitarian Requirements Document, an annual assessment in collaboration with international partners detailing Ethiopia’s humanitarian needs. The revised figure followed spring rains in April that petered out too soon, taking any hopes of revival with them. “The situation is unprecedented,” said Sam Wood, Save the Children’s humanitarian director in Ethiopia. “That was the third failed rainy season in a row, so it’s a cumulative effect of failed rains hitting vulnerable communities. “Ethiopia has made lots of progress, but when you have a problem of this sort of scale, duration and scope, any system is going to be overwhelmed.” Adding to concerns is the chance the Hagaya/Deyr short rains (October to December), accounting for up to 35 percent of annual rainfall in the southeast, could prove a dud too due to the continuing El Niño effect.   The current humanitarian bill is $1.26 billion. So far only $334 million has been received. Why the cash shortfall? At the beginning of the year, the UN warned that 20 million people were at risk of starvation in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and northeast Nigeria. “Aid budgets from donor countries have already committed most of their funding responding to other conflicts or disasters for this year, and this resulted in less funding for drought-affected people in Ethiopia,” said Geno Teofilo with the Norwegian Refugee Council. “There is also donor fatigue regarding droughts in East Africa,” he added. Others note how droughts don’t seize the public imagination to the same extent as disasters like earthquakes and hurricanes, meaning there’s less motivation to delve into one’s pockets. This year, the Ethiopian government has committed $147 million compared to last year’s unprecedented $700 million. “The government has many development demands,” Mitiku Kassa, Ethiopia’s state minister of agriculture and commissioner for its National Disaster Risk Management Commission, told IRIN. “If we divert too many funds to humanitarian needs, it will be difficult to continue growth, so we have to request support from the international community.’’ What are the consequences on the ground? Pastoralists in Ethiopia’s Somali Region, bearing the brunt of this drought, have lost hundreds of thousands of sheep, goats, and camels. Often whole flocks have died, representing a family’s entire livelihood, leaving people no choice but to retreat to makeshift settlements, surviving on aid from the government and international agencies. A survey conducted by the International Organization for Migration between May and June 2017 identified 264 of these sites containing around 577,711 internally displaced persons, or IDPs. Overwhelmed by numbers and additionally challenged by diminishing funds, aid agencies began cutting food rations and faced running out of money entirely this July, until last minute donations from Britain, the EU, and the United States guaranteed food shipments through to the end of the year. At the same time, the World Food Programme was able to increase its humanitarian support from 1.7 million people to 3.3 million in the Somali region. For now, deaths on[...]



The "New Way of Working": Bridging aid's funding divide

Fri, 09 Jun 2017 12:21:51 +0000

A new UN-led reform policy aims to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development actors. Heard this tune before? Perhaps. But the so-called New Way of Working (NWOW) has, according to its champions, the potential to radically improve how emergency relief programmes are designed and delivered.   Proponents see it as a way to unlock new sources of funding for humanitarian response from multilateral sources who have previously stayed out of crisis settings, for example the World Bank. It is also being tied to new ways of supporting Syrian refugees and host countries, such as the “compacts” designed for Lebanon and Jordan.   Early pilots are underway or planned in several countries, including Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. But even as the policy is being rolled out, many questions remain. There are concerns a shotgun marriage between emergency and development aid could lead to the blurring of institutional mandates, misplaced priorities, and the violation of humanitarian principles. Others question whether risk-averse donors will be prepared to change how and with whom they fund aid.   What is the New Way of Working?   In his “One Humanity, Shared Responsibility” report, published in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit last year, then-UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon urged the international aid system “to commit to working in a new paradigm”.    Building on the holistic “Leave no-one behind” approach of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Ban called for the setting aside of artificial institutional labels such as “development” and “humanitarian”, and urged agencies to “move beyond the comfort of traditional silos, mandates and institutional boundaries.”   The heads of the leading UN agencies responded by signing the “Commitment to Action”, in which they undertook to “implement a new way of working that meets people’s immediate humanitarian needs while at the same time reducing risk and vulnerability”.   Signatories of the Grand Bargain, the landmark agreement to reform emergency aid, likewise committed to “enhanced engagement between humanitarian and development actors”. Izumi Nakamitsu, then head of the Crisis Response Unit at the United Nations Development Programme, told IRIN in an interview in March: “We are trying to have a paradigm shift in looking at the phenomenon of crises, both humanitarian but also protracted crises, which therefore become a development challenge as well.”   “It’s not just about tweaking or changing here and there a little bit, with business as usual. It is going to be a huge change, both for humanitarians and development people and also the donor governments.”   Erm, sounds great, but what is the New Way of Working?   Policy chiefs have been keen to avoid fixed definitions because they say it has to be “context-specific”.   According to Nakamitsu, “there is no one-size-fits-all [approach]… It’s all very contextualised and we are learning as we go,” she said, while stressing an emphasis on field-led initiatives rather than top-down policy directives.   Essentially though, the NWOW is about closer collaboration between humanitarian and development response through the pillars of: “collective outcomes”, “comparative advantage”, and “multi-year timeframes”.   In March, more than 100 delegates from a range of UN agencies, NGOs, donor countries, and multilateral institutions gathered in Copenhagen for a high-level workshop to discuss the policy. They agreed:   -- Instead of just delivering aid to meet need, set collective targets around reducing that need, such as cutting food insecurity rates or cholera infections in a specific geography over a set period of time   -- Decide who is best placed to respond to the crisis, in terms of skills, funding, and capacity, rather than who applies to help out first or who did it last time   -- Secure funding and capacity to support res[...]



A way of life under threat in Kenya as Lake Turkana shrinks

Tue, 23 May 2017 10:29:07 +0000

The last native speaker of the Elmolo language reportedly died sometime in the 1970s. By then, only a few hundred Elmolo remained, eking out a living on Kenya’s southern waters of Lake Turkana as they always had, drinking its brackish waters and fishing for catfish, tilapia, and Nile perch. Thanks to intermarriage with other tribes and adopting the Samburu language, the number of Elmolo has today increased to a few thousand. But their long-term survival remains far from certain, thanks to a new threat. Lake Turkana is the largest desert lake in the world and has existed in some form for nearly four million years. Ancient hominids, like the contemporaries of Turkana Boy – the nearly complete skeleton of homo erectus discovered in nearby Nariokotome – fished and lived along its shores. Now, the lake itself, along with the populations that depend on it, are increasingly vulnerable. Nearly 90 percent of its freshwater inflow comes from the Omo River across the border in Ethiopia. Last year, the government in Addis Ababa unveiled Africa’s tallest hydroelectric dam and announced plans to build a series of water-hungry plantations along the Omo. Nearly 30,000 hectares have already been cleared in the Lower Omo for sugar plantation. Those projects threaten to strangle Turkana’s water supply, and have the potential to devastate the livelihoods of nearly 300,000 people in Kenya who rely on the lake for food. Because of this – and the largely manmade nature of the potential crisis – Lake Turkana is now being referred to as an East African Aral Sea. Communities like the Elmolo are already experiencing changes. Since 2015, Lake Turkana’s waters have dropped by 1.5 meters, according to satellite data collected by the US Department of Agriculture and published this year by Human Rights Watch. A recent study by the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI) showed declining catches, both due to changes in water levels and overfishing. For the Elmolo and others who depend on these waters, that means less fish to bring home to their families. “Sometimes you get one perch, and after two or three months, you get another,” said Lpindirah Lengutuk, a 32-year-old Elmolo fisherman who spent most of his life on the lake’s jade waters. “The fish have moved. We don’t know what has taken the fish.” The situation is only expected to get worse. Lpindirah Lengutuk, Fisherman | Lake Turkana, Kenya width="640" height="360" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EMImJEjv5g0?feature=oembed" frameborder="0" gesture="media" allowfullscreen=""> Benedict Moran//IRIN "If there is no lake, people die" - fisherman Lpindirah Lengutuk   Grounded fleets and brewing violence Should water inflow of Lake Turkana reduce to below that lost by evaporation, its sensitive ecosystem could be changed permanently, scientists say. In the worst-case scenario, the lake could be divided into two lakes, with a smaller section breaking off and eventually becoming a lifeless, salty pool of algae. “The salinity of the lake would likely increase to the level that it cannot support freshwater organisms that live in the lake,” said John Malala, a senior research officer at KMFRI. “Many productive areas will definitely be lost.” Shifting rainfall patterns due to climate change and cyclical drought are making the situation even worse. This year, much of Kenya, including the areas that straddle Lake Turkana, is experiencing a devastating drought, prompting the national government to declare a national disaster. In Turkana County, more than 60 percent of wells are dry, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Authority. Thousands of dead livestock litter roadsides. In such extreme periods, many pastoralists, like the Turkana people, traditionally rely on the lake not just for food, but to make e[...]



Slave labour? Death rate doubles for migrant domestic workers in Lebanon

Mon, 15 May 2017 15:31:52 +0000

A woman with a pink cloth wrapped around her head climbs out of a window on the fourth floor of a residential building. She peers at the ground far below, clutching onto the window ledge as voices in the background yell at her to come inside. Instead, she jumps, her scream lingering for four seconds before she hits the ground.   The video was broadcast on Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed TV in March, with a voiceover explaining that the woman was an Ethiopian domestic worker in Khalde, an area south of Beirut.   According to statistics obtained by IRIN from General Security, Lebanon’s intelligence agency, migrant domestic workers in Lebanon are dying at a rate of two per week. Many of the deaths are suicides or botched escape attempts in which migrant women choose to jump off buildings rather than continue working in abusive and exploitative situations.   Human Rights Watch reported on the situation of migrant domestic workers in Lebanon in a 2008 report that put the death rate at one per week. Since then, heightened activism and advocacy on the issue seems to have had little impact. The bodies of 138 migrant domestic workers were repatriated between January 2016 and April this year.   Rights groups have been advocating for better protections of migrant workers in Lebanon for years and in 2014 domestic workers managed to found their own union – the first of its kind in the region. Yet little has changed. Women coming from Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Kenya, and other developing countries are still bound by the kefala (sponsorship) system, which gives employers total control over their lives.   Beaten and sexually abused   Rahwa*, a 37-year-old from Eritrea, escaped after five years as a domestic worker for a wealthy family in Tripoli. She received no salary, no days off, and slept on the kitchen floor. She suffered beatings from her "madam" and sexual harassment from the woman's husband. “It was hell,” said Rahwa, who was not allowed to contact her family in Eritrea. Now she’s a registered refugee and is informally leading a migrant workers’ church in Beirut. She told IRIN that many of the women who come to her church feel trapped by the conditions of live-in domestic work. “Many are going crazy. Even when they run away, they live in rooms with six or seven people stuck together. That makes you crazy too,” Rahwa said.   The increase in migrant workers’ deaths coincides with a decrease in public reporting and enquiry. The only NGO actively tallying migrant domestic workers’ deaths is KAFA, a Lebanese women’s rights group, which relies on local news reports to map cases. They have found only 10 to 12 cases a year on average since 2010, and hadn’t detected the recent increase.   At a migrant community centre in Beirut, 37-year-old Ethiopian Rahel Zegeye, a volunteer with the pro-migrant rights Anti-Racism Movement, said that suicides are difficult to document because many women who die never left their employers’ homes. Zegeye has tried to follow up on several suicide cases but said: “I don’t have power to ask the government anything here.” She swiped through photos of injured Ethiopian domestic workers on her phone: some unconscious and bruised, others pregnant, sick, or bleeding on the floor – all of them women, many of whom Zegeye said had since died.   A hidden crisis   Ethiopia has banned labour migration to the Middle East, but migrant women continue to arrive illegally from there every day. Unseen and unrecorded, they are locked into work situations that often end in abuse, imprisonment, deportation or even death.   “So many Ethiopians come here… Why doesn’t the Lebanese government stop them?” said Zegeye. “Our young generation is dying here.”   KAFA communications coordinator Maya Ammar said her organisation had tried to gather more information about migrant deaths reported in the media from General Security, “but the file is closed a[...]



Displaced and neglected: Ethiopia's desperate drought victims

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 14:53:42 +0000

Dead camels rot on the outskirts of informal settlements in Ethiopia’s rain-starved Somali region as their owners, once proudly self-sufficient pastoralists, turn to government aid to stay alive. Ethiopia is facing a drought so terrible that nomadic herders, the hardiest of survivors, have been pushed to the brink. The lucky ones receive supplies of food and brackish water, but the majority, who have settled in spontaneous camps in the remotest reaches, must look after themselves. “We call this drought sima,” said 82-year-old Abdu Karim. “It means ‘everyone is affected’. Even when I was a child, no one spoke of a drought like this one.” Across the Horn of Africa, people are struggling after three successive years of failed rains. In Somalia and Yemen, there is real fear of famine. While Ethiopia’s remote southern region has been spared the warfare that has deepened the crisis confronting its neighbours, the drought has been no less brutal. “Having lost most of their livestock, they have also spent out the money they had in reserve to try to keep their last few animals alive,” said Charlie Mason, humanitarian director at Save the Children. “For those who have lost everything, all they can now do is go to a government assistance site for food and water.” Livestock are the backbone of the region’s economy. Pastoralists here are estimated to have lost in excess of $200 million-worth of cattle, sheep, goats, and camels. That is not only a blow to their wealth, but also deprives them of the meat and milk that is the mainstay of the pastoralist life-support system. Last year, more than 10 million people were affected by an El Niño-induced drought. The government spent an unprecedented $700 million, while the international community made up the rest of the $1.8 billion needed to meet their needs. This year, the appeal is for $948 million to help 5.6 million drought-affected people, mainly in the southern and eastern parts of the country. So far, only $23.7 million has been received. “Last year’s response by the government was pretty remarkable,” said World Vision’s Ethiopia director, Edward Brown. “We dodged a bullet. But now the funding gaps are larger on both sides. The UN’s ability is constrained as it looks for big donors – you’ve already got the US talking of slashing foreign aid.” Under strain The government has a well-established safety net programme managed by the World Bank that supports the chronically food insecure, typically with cash-for-work projects. But it doesn’t pick up those affected by sudden shocks like the current drought. They fall under a new and separate programme, which is struggling to register all those in need. There are 58 settlements for the internally displaced in the Somali region currently receiving government aid. But that’s only a fraction of the 222 sites containing nearly 400,000 displaced people identified in a survey by the International Organization for Migration. Forty-four percent of these camps reported no access to food, and only 31 percent had a water source within a 20-minute walk. "People were surviving from what they could forage to eat or sell but now there is nothing left,” said one senior aid worker who visited a settlement 70 kilometres east of the southern town of Dolo Ado, where 650 displaced pastoralist families weren’t receiving any aid at all. The only livestock left alive in the camp was one skinny cow, its rib cage undulating through its skin, and her new-born calf. In some shelters people were reported as too weak to move.  James Jeffrey/IRIN IDPs are falling through the cracks Informal settlements have sprung up wherever the exhausted pastoralists have stopped. The further away from the regional capital, Jijiga, the less likely they are to be supplied by the government. There is also a degree of friction bet[...]



Ethiopia extends emergency as old antagonisms fester

Mon, 03 Apr 2017 15:37:49 +0000

The Ethiopian government has extended a nationwide state of emergency for four months, hailing it as successful in restoring stability after almost a year of popular protests and crackdowns that cost hundreds of lives. But while parts of Amhara, one of the hotbeds of the recent unrest, may be calm on the surface, IRIN found that major grievances remain unaddressed and discontent appears to be festering: There are even widespread reports that farmers in the northern region are engaged in a new, armed rebellion. Human rights organisations and others have voiced concern at months of draconian government measures – some 20,000 people have reportedly been detained under the state of emergency, which also led to curfews, bans on public assembly, and media and internet restrictions. “The regime has imprisoned, tortured and abused 20,000-plus young people and killed hundreds more in order to restore a semblance of order,” said Alemante Selassie, emeritus law professor at the College of William & Mary in the US state of Virginia. “Repression is the least effective means of creating real order in any society where there is a fundamental breach of trust between people and their rulers.” The government line is far rosier. “There’s been no negative effects,” Zadig Abrha, Ethiopia’s state minister for government communication affairs, told IRIN shortly before the measures were extended by four months, on 30 March. “The state of emergency enabled us to focus on repairing the economic situation, compensating investors, and further democratising the nation… [and] allowed us to normalise the situation to how it was before, by enabling us to better coordinate security and increase its effectiveness.” Clamping down On 7 August 2016, in the wake of protests in the neighbouring Oromia region, tens of thousands of people gathered in the centre of Bahir Dar, the capital of Amhara. They had come to express their frustration at perceived marginalisation and the annexation of part of their territory by Tigray – the region from which the dominant force in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition is drawn. Accounts vary as to what prompted security forces to open fire on the demonstration – some say a protestor tried to replace a federal flag outside a government building with its now-banned precursor – but by the end of the day, 27 people were dead. That toll climbed to 52 by the end of the week. In all, some 227 civilians died during weeks of unrest in the Amhara region, according to the government. Others claim the real figure is much higher. A six-month state of emergency was declared nationally on 9 October. Military personnel, under the coordination of a new entity known as the “Command Post”, flooded into cities across the country. “Someone will come and say they are with the Command Post and just tell you to go with them – you have no option but to obey,” explained Dawit, who works in the tourism industry in the Amhara city of Gondar. “No one has any insurance of life.” James Jeffrey/IRIN Local people told IRIN that the Command Post also took control of the city’s courts and did away with due process. Everyday life ground to a halt as traders closed shops and businesses in a gesture of passive resistance. In Bahir Dar and Gondar, both popular historical stop-offs, tourism, an economic mainstay, tanked. “In 2015, Ethiopia was voted by the likes of The New York Times and National Geographic as one of the best destinations,” said Stefanos, another Gondar resident who works in the tourism sector. “Then this happened and everything collapsed.” Lingering resentment Before it was renewed, the state of emergency was modified, officially reinstating the requirement of search warrants and doing away with detention without trial. Prominent blogger and Ethiopian political analyst Daniel Berhane said t[...]



Face to face with the Eritrean exodus into Ethiopia

Thu, 16 Mar 2017 15:20:49 +0000

Under the early morning sun in the most northern region of Ethiopia a motley group of Eritrean men, women and children arrive dusty and tired at the end of a journey – and at the start of another.  After crossing the border under cover of darkness (leaving Eritrea without authorisation is a crime punishable by up to five years in jail), they are found by Ethiopian soldiers and taken to Adinbried – a compound of modest buildings at one of the 12 so-called “entry points” dotted along this barren 910-kilometre border. This is where their long asylum process will begin. “It took us four days travelling from Asmara,” a 31-year-old man tells IRIN of his trek from the Eritrean capital, about 80 kilometres north of the border. “We travelled for 10 hours each night, sleeping in the desert during the day.” With him are another three men, three women, six girls and four small boys. The smuggler who guided them charged $2,500 each. “He was good,” the man says. “He showed us the safe paths, and helped carry the children on his shoulders. He didn’t ask for more money like some do.” He says they carried very little because of the distance and because they didn’t want to betray their intentions to Eritrean soldiers. Asylum pipeline From the 12 entry points, Eritreans are taken to a screening centre for registration in the town of Endabaguna, 60 kilometres west of the popular tourist destination of Aksum. Then, they are assigned to one of four refugee camps in the Tigray region, bordering Eritrea. In February 2017, 3,367 Eritreans arrived in Ethiopia, according to Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs. There are around 165,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers in Ethiopia, according to the UN refugee agency. Thousands more Eritreans live in the country outside the asylum system. “Sometimes we get more than 120 people a day,” says Luel Abera, the reception coordinator at Adinbried. “The stories I hear are very sad: pregnant women delivering on the way, people shot at or wounded, hungry and hurt children.” Luel fought with the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front when it was a rebel group (it is now the largest party in Ethiopia’s ruling coalition), which, alongside the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, toppled Mengistu Haile Mariam’s dictatorship in 1991. In May of that year, the EPLF marched into Asmara, reinstating Eritrea’s independence from Ethiopia. “The Eritrean people are good,” Luel says. “They fought for independence for 30 years. But from day one, [Eritrean President] Isaias [Afwerki] has ruled the country without caring about his people’s interests.” Push factors Among those dropped off at Adinbried when IRIN visits are three Eritrean soldiers – or deserters. Escaping poorly paid and protracted national service is one of the most common reasons cited by Eritrean migrants for fleeing their country. “Living conditions in Eritrea are more dangerous than crossing the border,” says one of them, a 39-year-old who served 20 years in the military. He explains that the three of them were farmers from the same village who, when drafted into national service, were posted to different locations along the Ethiopian border. They decided to cross as it was getting harder to leave their duty stations for the month they needed to be on their farms for harvest time, and because the government recently introduced a new tax on each head of livestock. The three soldiers weren’t allowed mobile phones, so, in planning their escape, they communicated by word of mouth and through letters using colleagues they trusted. Each left a wife and child behind. “The wives didn’t want us to go and were too scared to come,” the 39-year-old says. “But they’re not angry with us. Whether we are in national service or Ethiopia, they still can’t see us.” It’s just over 2[...]



Lake Chad money, Oxfam-GOAL merger, and serial Syria talks: The Cheat Sheet

Fri, 17 Feb 2017 15:10:25 +0000

Every week, IRIN’s team of editors takes a look at what lies ahead on the humanitarian agenda and curates a selection of some of the best reports, opinion, and journalism you may have missed: What’s coming up? Finding $1.5 billion for Lake Chad The borders of Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger, and Chad meet at Lake Chad. The region is now one of the most critical humanitarian hotspots in the world, with a food security ranking teetering on the edge of full-blown famine in some areas. The UN says it can help about eight million of those in need if it is sufficiently funded.  Attacks by the extremist Boko Haram and counter-insurgency operations against them have uprooted millions and disrupted social services, trade, and agriculture.  Strained relations between Nigerian authorities and the international aid community have also played a part, while formidable logistics and security challenges hamper operations in neighbouring countries.  With South Sudan, Iraq, Yemen, and Syria all clamouring for media clicks and donor dollars, the "Lake Chad Basin" humanitarian situation has to fight for attention even while its capacity to respond faces setbacks. Last night, fresh attacks and clashes were reported in Maiduguri, the forward base for a still-fragile humanitarian operation in northeastern Nigeria.  A conference in Norway on 24 February aims to stimulate donor contributions and diplomatic attention. Thematic sessions will be held on food, protection, access, and education. The one-day event co-hosted by Nigeria, Norway, and the UN, will include ministers from the affected nations and the most important donor countries, leaders of relevant regional organisations, development finance institutions, and UN bodies. And the pledgers better pledge: the UN-led response plans are costed at $1.5 billion. Own GOAL? The Irish NGO GOAL, reeling from a corruption scandal, has started merger talks with Oxfam Ireland, the two agencies announced. Regular IRIN readers will need no reminding of GOAL's problems. A procurement fraud in Turkey lifted the lid on a shocking web of conflicts of interest that has taken the scalp of the CEO and the COO already, and triggered an investigation by the US government that is still ongoing. GOAL's donors got spooked and its income has collapsed. The latest news confirms that the chances of GOAL surviving in its current form are receding by the day. Is it game over for GOAL? Lost in Syria peace talks One round of Syria peace talks is delayed but under way in the capital of Kazakhstan this week and yet another is due to start the following week in Geneva. The Russia- and Turkey-brokered Astana talks began a day late thanks to disagreements over the agenda, and the UN-sponsored negotiations are on shaky ground too: A key Syrian opposition body has said it wants to talk transition with Damascus, which for its part has no interest in engineering President Bashar al-Assad’s exit from power. Nobody knows exactly who will show up in Geneva, or when, or if they’ll actually do much talking at all. But it’s probably safe to bet that Syria’s long-winded UN rep Bashar al-Jaafari will make an appearance, and that there will be further splits among the opposition delegation, which has presented itself as unified. If all this sounds like déjà vu all over again, you’ve clearly been paying attention for the past six years. With talk now of Pentagon plans for US troops on the ground, tune in next week for our update from Aron Lund on the post-Astana pre-Geneva lay of the land, and what it means for the future of Syria. The big Munich meet-up Conferences often mean strange bedfellows, and the Munich Security Conference that kicks off today is no exception. Participants include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, US Vice-President Mike Pence and, um, Bono, obviou[...]



Tackling drought with emergency aid is not the answer

Tue, 07 Feb 2017 19:09:04 +0000

For those forced to live through them, droughts are less an unusual event than a way of life that constantly tests your resilience and resourcefulness. To be a farmer, or make a living from livestock in Ethiopia, where my organisation, Mercy Corps, has been working for many years, you need to be innovative in the face of ever-changing weather patterns.  And yet the 2015 El Niño drought cycle – the worst in 50 years by some measures – tested even this population. One seasoned pastoralist reported recently to our staff that he’d “never seen anything like this drought”. Though it has driven an estimated 10 million people into food insecurity, the drought was not particularly surprising – weather-related crises have increased in frequency in this part of the world over the last decade.  Facing these extreme climate patterns, many development organisations have recognised what former USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah stated: that “segregated humanitarian support activities and development activities” no longer work in these contexts.  Time for a change What is needed are carefully sequenced, layered, and integrated interventions that work together to build household and community capacity to learn, cope, adapt, and transform in the face of shocks and stresses, rather than a reliance on costly direct emergency assistance after the fact.  To this end, instead of the traditional humanitarian assistance method of direct delivery of resources like food, medicine, or other equipment, Mercy Corps has adopted a new approach designed with resilience as a central feature. Our aim is to ensure that wellbeing like food security, economic status, and health are maintained or improved despite recurrent shocks. RELATED: How much worse are African droughts because of man-made climate change? Putting this into practice requires longer-term strategies that take into account the many factors that influence resilience and vulnerability at different levels of society – from household to community to region. One example of our resilience-building is the USAID-funded Pastoralist Areas Resilience Improvement through Market Expansion project in Ethiopia, which relies largely on strengthening the market systems in which households participate. The PRIME programme does this in part through strategic subsidies aimed at supporting individuals and local businesses to expand their livelihood options – including support to develop and adopt new technologies, skills training, and improved access to natural resources.  Simultaneously, linkages are created between producers and consumers, potential employers and employees, suppliers and retailers, and communities and government institutions. By then providing support through ongoing research, demonstration, and training, these individuals and communities are given the help they need to access the global market and to sustain their gains.  Promising insights This kind of resilience-focused programming sounds like a good idea – but does it actually work? Until recently, little evidence existed to address this question. But new Mercy Corps research offers some promising observations about the effectiveness of a resilience approach. While such work has been evaluated before, no one to our knowledge has rigorously evaluated a programme‘s impact in real time in the context of a major shock. By conducting this study during a major drought cycle, we were able to leverage a rare opportunity.  Since PRIME began in 2012, we were already well established in the drought-affected regions. The unique circumstances in Ethiopia allowed us to match households targeted by the PRIME project with a statistically similar group of other households not targeted by PRIME – giving us insight into whether this major investment in drought resilience actually w[...]