Christian Aid's work today in Horn of Africa

from Christian Aid
Published on 26 Apr 2000
Christian Aid Communications Officer, Sophia Mwangi, has recently returned from Ethiopia. She reports on Christian Aid's current work with communities in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya, who have all been hit by drought.

Christian Aid works through several local organisations in Ethiopia, providing support with agriculture and irrigation, water and sanitation and tree-planting programmes. Listed below are some of Christian Aid's partners in Ethiopia which have been given grants in response to the current food crisis.

ACT (Action by Churches Together)

Christian Aid has made a grant of =A3180,000 to ACT and the Joint Relief Partnership (JRP) in Ethiopia. JRP/ACT is well established at a local level, providing emergency relief to 755,195 vulnerable people (approximately ten per cent of all people affected by the drought). They will provide emergency food supplies plus maize, wheat, teff and sorghum seeds. Fertilisers and farm tools will also be supplied.

FARM Africa

A grant of =A3130,000 has been made to FARM Africa. Christian Aid is supporting FARM Africa's work with farmers and herders in making long-term improvements to their livelihoods through more effective use and management of their resources.

FARM Africa has been working in Konso (southern Ethiopia) since 1990. Konso is now one of the worst affected areas, with around 90,000 people now in a 'high-risk' situation. FARM Africa is providing food aid to tide these communities over until further supplies pledged by the international community arrive.

Poor transport links have compounded the food shortage in the Ahferom area of Tigray in northern Ethiopia. Here FARM is helping a further 18,000 households with a total population of 77,000 people to cope with the drought.

Ogaden Welfare Society

Ogaden Welfare Society (OWS) is a local organisation working in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Christian Aid has granted the OWS US$100,000 to help run a feeding centre in Gode, south-east Ethiopia. Around 2000 malnourished and undernourished children are being provided with extra rations of high-protein and high-energy food.

Ethiopian Orthodox Church (EOC)

EOC-DICAC (Ethiopian Orthodox Church - Development and Interchurch Aid Commission) is Christian Aid's main church partner in Ethiopia. Christian Aid is supporting EOC for its water project in the districts of Lasta-Gidan and Meket.

The aim of the project is to improve health care in Gidan and Meket in the North Wollo area of Ethiopia, through the provision of clean water, pit latrines and a hygiene education programme. Currently, the two districts are badly affected by the drought situation. In the lowland areas of Meket, communities are requesting for food-for-work programmes to dig wells. Christian Aid is administering grant of =A3121,596 for this project.

Action for Development (AfD)

Christian Aid has supported Action for Development (AfD) since 1988. AfD works in the area in southern Ethiopia known as the 'green famine belt' which was severely affected by famine in the mid 1980s and in 1994. Although the region looks green, high population density, cattle disease, low soil fertility and lack of non-agricultural employment lead to food shortages.

Christian Aid has made a grant of =A3100,000 to AfD for its activities within North Omo Community Development Programme. The programme aims to increase agricultural and livestock productivity, conserve and develop natural resources and to increase access to basic social services such as a safe water supply, health care and education.


According to UNICEF, nearly a third of Eritrea's population will need food aid this year - 850,000 people out of a population of three million. Thousands of farmers in the grain-producing regions of the south are reported to have fled the conflict zone, leaving crops unharvested. This has contributed to the sharp rise in local food prices, which make grain too expensive for most families to buy. Livestock - often the family's prized asset - is being sold cheaply in order to purchase grain.

In January 2000 the UN agencies appealed for US$42.7 million for 62,800 metric tonnes of food for 372,000 war-affected people, as well as 211,000 people affected by the drought. By mid-March 2000 only 12,000 metric tonnes of food which was pledged had arrived. Reports from border camps in Eritrea in April indicated that shelter, health and education services are very rudimentary, but that water and food were being provided.

Christian Aid is working through ACORD in Eritrea. In May 1999 Christian Aid made a grant of =A325,000 to ACORD for the drilling and construction of water systems in four camps at Zoba Debub, catering for 38,000 displaced people.


For the past eight years Somalia has been a nation without central government. Continued violence and political instability have been most marked in the south, including the capital Mogadishu, and many international agencies have left. This situation has been exacerbated by a succession of natural calamities - again concentrated in southern regions. The 1997 El Niño-related floods were followed by drought, which has become most severe recently in the regions of Bay, Bakool and Gedo in the south-west, where four harvests have failed. Harvests in Somalia are expected to fail for the sixth year in succession. The World Food Programme estimates that 1.2 to 1.5 million people are at risk of serious food shortage.

The worst-affected drought areas are Bay, Bakool, Gedo and Hiran regions in the south, adjacent to Ethiopia, and the Galgadud and Mudug regions. Since December 1998, growing numbers of hungry and sick people have abandoned these areas in search of food, water and work, with over 200,000 fleeing to Mogadishu alone.

A second, new, area of concern is the north, especially the Sool and Toghdeer regions in Eastern Somaliland, where 200,000 people are facing food and water shortages. The key factor in Somalia are the Gu rains, due in April and responsible for three quarters of the annual crop yields. If they fail, Somalia faces a major catastrophe. Even if they arrive, the World Food Programme says communities are still five to six months away from a harvest, and immediate needs remain.

Christian Aid is working through Action for Churches Together (ACT) and ACORD:

ACORD: has worked in Somalia for 15 years, particularly with the people of Lower Shabelle who were badly affected by the floods in the latter part of 1997. In March 2000 Christian Aid granted =A333,750 to ACORD for its work in 3 districts of Lower Shabelle. These districts are almost all dependent on irrigated agriculture and livestock. This three-year programme aims to improve food security for 100,000 people in these districts, by rehabilitating irrigation systems and wells, issuing seeds, tools, goats and fishing materials.

Action by Churches Together (ACT)

In August 1999, Christian Aid made a grant of =A325,000 to the ACT appeal in Somalia for relief goods and seeds and tools for the drought-affected areas of the south.

ACT is delivering maize and beans to 50,000 displaced people in Mogadishu and the Shabelle regions, plus 3,000 sets of seeds and tools (hoes, shovels, axes) to 18,000 people. ACT stresses that if pledges of food assistance do not come in time, or if there is a lack of co-ordination between aid agencies working in southern Somalia, the situation could become worse than the famine in Ethiopia

ACT member-agencies have also been working for six years in the Gedo region in flood relief, agriculture and water provision. Their main aim has been to help 50,000 people in Gabraharrey, Burdhubo and Luuq with seeds and agricultural tools, and by rehabilitating irrigation canals, pumps and shallow wells. They have also been supplying 6,000 displaced people with food (rice, sugar, oil), plastic sheets, buckets and kitchen utensils.


Kenya is reportedly the second most severely hit country after Ethiopia, with 2.7 million people facing food shortages. The food supply situation is critical in the northern, eastern and north-western districts and in parts of central, coastal and Rift Valley provinces.

The Government of Kenya has appealed to the international community for emergency assistance until the next harvest in July 2000. The World Food Programme states that Turkana district in north-western Kenya is the worst-affected area with an estimated 250,000 people at risk.

The price of maize has increased sharply in most parts, reducing access to food for a large number of people. In January, maize prices were up to 50 per cent on the average price for the previous five years because of lower rainfall in the usually rich maize-producing plains of the Rift valley. Low crop production, in an area which supplies nearly half of Kenya's total annual grain production, has also meant that cereal is too expensive for families to buy. Increasing malnutrition and health problems have been reported. Adequate rainfall during the current season (March to May) will be crucial for improved food security in north-western and eastern provinces.

Christian Aid is working through the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK)/Ukamba Christian Community Services (UCCS), making a grant of =A335,000 for a food security programme to work in the Ukambani region of Kenya. UCCS is the development arm of the Anglican Church of Kenya, covering the two diocese of Machakos and Kitui. UCCS has been a partner of Christian Aid since 1991.

The project includes training in bee-keeping, agriculture, livestock rearing, soil and water conservation and the promotion of drought-tolerant seeds. It also runs a community grain store and tree nurseries and promotes health education.