Ethiopia : ICRC priorities in 2003

ICRC starts 2003 with a major new operation to help hundreds of thousands of people suffering as a result of drought, especially in conflict-prone areas. But its presence in the country goes back more than 25 years, and many other humanitarian problems stemming from internal conflicts and disturbances remain to be tackled.
In 2003, the ICRC will continue to focus on issues outstanding from the 1998-2000 international conflict with Eritrea.

In the war-damaged northern area of Tigray, the ICRC will seek to help displaced people to return home and resume a normal life by providing them with basic shelter materials and renewing water systems and health facilities. In addition, the ICRC will provide emergency water and non-food supplies in the event that people are displaced by the physical demarcation of the border.

To assist the war-disabled, the ICRC will provide funds and material to allow more than 1,600 patients to be fitted with artificial limbs or joints at five workshops (Addis Ababa, Mekele, Dessie, Harar and Arba Minch) and expand its training programme for local technicians.

Separated families

Families separated by the war will continue to be offered Red Cross message (RCM) and tracing services to re-establish contact with their relatives. Efforts will continue to reunite vulnerable people - children, the elderly, disabled and infirm - with their families across the border.

The war with Eritrea has ended, but internal conflict, disturbances and tensions persist in Ethiopia and the ICRC has accordingly stepped up its efforts to respond to the resulting needs. In 2003, the ICRC will continue to monitor the treatment and living conditions of detainees (more than 5,000 in November 2002) held in connection with the 1991 change of government or for reasons of state security. It will also seek to gain access to places of detention it has not yet visited and will encourage the authorities to treat prisoners in line with humanitarian principles and respect their right to judicial guarantees.

In conflict-prone areas such as the SNNPRS (Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Regional State), the SNRS (Somali National Regional State), Oromia and Afar, the ICRC will reinforce its field presence to monitor closely the situation of the civilian population. It will also expand its assistance programmes (medical, shelter, water and non-food supplies) for both displaced people and residents affected by armed conflicts or disturbances. For example, it will help children of families impoverished as a result of fighting to return to school, and support income-generating projects for women left to care for families on their own.

Integrated approach

In the SNRS the ICRC will maintain its integrated approach, combining health, veterinary, water, sanitation and agricultural programmes. The flood management programme, for example, aims to help farming communities manage scarce and sporadic rains more efficiently and boost food production. This can provide additional, stable sources of income, allowing the communities to be less dependent on aid when problems arise.

The Ethiopian Red Cross Society is the ICRC's partner in the field, particularly in carrying out safe-passage operations for Eritreans and Ethiopians returning to their country of origin and in providing emergency assistance. In coordination with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the ICRC will continue to provide funds, materials and expertise to help the national society develop its emergency response activities, in particular food and seed distributions, the ambulance service, tracing and the promotion of international humanitarian law and Red Cross/Red Crescent fundamental principles.

The ICRC coordinates closely with the Ethiopian government's disaster commission, UN agencies and other international and national organizations working in the country.