Ethiopia’s humanitarian crisis requires different Canada strategy

Ethiopia is the fifth-largest aid provider in East Africa. Despite the recent construction of over 1,300 kilometers of water projects, over 28 million Ethiopians (67 percent of the population) live in rural areas without reliable access to safe water and better sanitation. As the country continues to experience rapid population growth, pressures on water resources are expected to increase.

Despite the lack of safe water and basic sanitation in many parts of Ethiopia, Canada is one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia through governmental aid and support for Canadian NGOs operating in the country. Yet, despite the multiple issues of concern, Canada is doing little to address the people affected by these issues and their needs.

Ethiopia has one of the worst humanitarian crises in Africa. In 2014, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that an estimated 830,000 Ethiopians had been displaced due to drought and other disasters. Humanitarian appeals are funded through a combination of international donors and Ethiopia’s government and people. But the lack of foreign donors unable to bear the burden of giving adequate support has effectively crippled the UN agencies working in Ethiopia. Recently, millions of Ethiopians have been displaced due to lack of relief assistance in the face of unpredictable weather patterns, water scarcity, and a lack of flood prevention measures.

Despite the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, Canada is one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia. For this reason, the Canadian government must support local NGOs with donation of water and sanitation grants, and support the work of UN agencies in Ethiopia.

Canadian government aid can save lives and provide relief to people affected by Ethiopia’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. Canada should use this opportunity to amplify Ethiopia’s voice and put a human face on the thousands of people that are severely affected by famine, displacement, and disease.

Sierra Leone is currently experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. See https://natpo.st/NGRSug. Our governments have taken action in Sierra Leone: Canada has increased its aid budget for the country, increased its supply of food aid to the World Food Programme, and over 1,000 Canadian doctors have trained medical professionals in Sierra Leone. But, there are ongoing challenges in curbing the humanitarian crisis and bringing humanitarian agencies into the country. Canadian aid is making progress in curbing the crisis, but more needs to be done.

Ethiopia’s neighbours to the south and east, Djibouti and Eritrea, have seen repeated incursions by Ethiopia. Although Canada has expressed concerns about the human rights situation in Ethiopia, the Canadian government remains ambiguous when it comes to Ethiopia. Yet, there is significant need for independent international pressure to engage on the Ethiopian government to end its aggressive incursions into Somalia and the east.

Canada’s government needs to consider its humanitarian aid to Ethiopia as an opportunity to speak louder to support Ethiopia’s ongoing humanitarian crisis. Canadian officials need to be honest about what they know about the situation in Ethiopia’s remote eastern Somali region. They need to support local organizations operating in the east instead of donating almost all of the Canadian government’s aid to government and traditional agencies who work in Ethiopia.

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