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In Ethiopia, sharply increasing food prices are of main concern for the country’s poverty reduction strategy. Furthermore, almost 50% of the people rely on unsafe drinking water supplies. Around 95% do not use improved sanitation, resulting in a high prevalence of water-borne diseases and thus worsening the food security situation. Therefore, Caritas Switzerland puts the two fields of activity Water, Sanitation & Hygiene and Food Security and Markets at the core of its new country programme 2017 to 2020.
Ethiopia is also a country where a wide range of natural hazards negatively impact peoples’ livelihoods. Historical evidence shows that recurrent drought is the most frequent hazard, with the gravest impact on peoples’ lives. In 2016, Ethiopia struggled with the worst drought in more than 50 years, which continued in south-eastern areas in 2017 and left over ten million people in need of humanitarian food assistance.
Climate change is making forecasts more difficult, and unpredictable recurrent droughts and floods are likely to occur in the future. Hence, Caritas Switzerland combines its development programme with humanitarian work based on the Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) approach.
Caritas Switzerland’s geographical hubs in Ethiopia are in the east (East and West Hararghe) and south (Bale, Guji and Borana Zone) of the country, targeting rural communities living in lowland areas and often neglected buffer zones between high and lowlands. The focus on these areas allows Caritas Switzerland to make best use of synergies among its partners, networks, and needs on the ground.
Water, Sanitation & Hygiene
The key focus of Caritas Switzerland’s programme in Ethiopia is on the WASH sector, with access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and improved hygiene, and access to water for food forming the key entry points for an integrated water cycle management approach. Beyond the water resource development for human and livestock consumption as well as agricultural production by means of multiple-use water schemes, strong emphasis is placed on the interconnectedness of access to WASH, environmental cleanliness and soil and water conservation, as well as on broader sustainable natural resource management and thus embeddedness in the larger environment.
All the above dimensions are addressed at community as well as school level, which includes children acting as promoters of change. Among other approaches, WASH in schools is pursued through ‘Children Hygiene and Sanitation Training’ (CHAST), a training tool designed for schoolchildren, imparting practical knowledge to improve personal health and general environmental conditions.
Food Security and Markets
The sustainable management and efficient use of water, a key natural resource for survival, are used as entry points for broader interventions aimed at sustainably increasing vulnerable households’ resilience through livelihood diversification and income generation. In addition to improving the sustainable and efficient use of water for food production, programmatic emphasis is placed on favouring the integration of vulnerable and poor smallholder agro-pastoralists into local markets while increasing key actors’ understanding of market dynamics. Through this approach, farmers are enabled to meet their own needs first, before selling their surplus produce for income generation.
Both the increase in crop production and education about the consumption of good quality and healthy food play a part in reducing malnutrition. When it comes to the implementation of activities, participatory needs assessments involving different stakeholders as member of cooperatives, smallholder farmers and representatives of the local government play a crucial role in creating ownership and sustainable project results.
Caritas Switzerland in Ethiopia is aware of the country’s high susceptibility to natural disasters, and of the likelihood of a deteriorating situation in the context of climate change, with everfaster cycles of drought and floods. Therefore, Caritas is prepared to continue to react quickly on climate change induced crises. At the national level, Caritas Switzerland is represented in crisis meetings of the international community (chaired by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, UNOCHA) and maintains close contact to (international) non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working in the field of humanitarian aid.
Caritas Switzerland’s projects aim to improve the coping mechanisms and livelihood resilience strategies of the smallholders to prevent areawide adverse impacts of such events. In case immediate support is needed, Caritas Switzerland integrates specific and complementary emergency interventions into existing programmes and projects. Furthermore, risks for development projects linked to CC-induced crises followed by humanitarian interventions are accounted for in the project design.