BY SOLOMON DIBABA
Over the last two years, Ethiopia has experienced the most deadly and devastative war in the northern part of the country. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and public and private properties, infrastructure and social service facilities that have been built and accumulated over the last several decades have either been totally destroyed or damaged beyond repair.
The war has seriously affected the livelihood of millions of citizens particularly in Tigray, and Amhara and Afar regions. According to estimates, more than 5 million citizens need urgent relief assistance while over 2 million were displaced from their homesteads in the three regions.
The need for urgent distribution of relief supplies and rehabilitation of the demolished infrastructure and social service facilities have already been recognized by the Federal Government of Ethiopia which started distributing relief food in Tigray including neighboring areas which are also affected by the war. The restoration of electric power supply has been provided to North and South Wollo Zones and some districts in Tigray and Afar regions.
Pursuant to the “Agreement for Lasting Peace through a Permanent Cessation of Hostilities between the Federal Government of Ethiopia and Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF),” the government is providing emergency food assistance to affected people in Tigray on roads. Regional governments have also pledged to mobilize resources to the people in Tigray.
There are diverse relief needs in the war torn Tigray region and neighboring regions, Amhara and Afar. The war has left thousands of children chronically ill and many of whom have even died. Regular medical treatments of sick and older persons were disrupted.
The GoE is currently conducting relief and rehabilitation programs in the affected regions but given the gravity and magnitude of emergency assistance, the government cannot undertake these activities single handedly and must be supported by international partners and governments, the UN systems, local and international NGOs, the private sector and the entire public in the country.
Two aspects of the relief and rehabilitation programs need urgent attention. First the relief programs must be linked with the rehabilitation efforts to conduct relief developmentally and not to create a prolonged dependency syndrome over the coming years. Second, all relief and development programs need to be conducted under the central plan, supervision and coordination.
The relief and rehabilitation programs need to be linked with major development programs in the regions to let communities become food secured at family level, by engaging farmers, for instance, in agricultural practices.
This implies introduction of agricultural package program which will involve distribution of agricultural tools, fertilizers, selected seeds to let the farmers get ready for the upcoming farming season.
Moreover, the war resulted in destruction of huge infrastructure facilities in Tigray. The supply of potable water that was disrupted in Tigray and neighboring Amhara and Afar districts can be fixed again to let communities have access to potable water supply for drinking and sanitation.
The rehabilitation program need to focus on physical rehabilitation of infrastructures like roads, power supplies, telephone systems as well as other service delivery systems like schools, hospitals, health centers and colleges and universities that were damaged during the two years war.
The war has left thousands of women and children who were traumatized and subjected to severe depression and paranoia, hopelessness and total despair need urgent psychosocial counseling with combined medical assistance. Some children may not be able to go to school unless they are provided with clinical counseling and mental nurturing.
Children who lost one or both of their parents during the war will definitely need special care and support as well as medical care to be provided to them on regular basis. Given their tender age, vulnerability to all kinds of traumatic disorders and mental disturbances, they need special care to be delivered to them by professionals.
The immense task of reintegrating families that were dispersed in the three regions and reestablishing the family fabric as well as recreating safe and stable communities that can live in harmony is a huge task in which all concerned stakeholders need to participate.
Repatriating the IDPs which were forced to live in camps is a big task. Already a considerable number of them in Northern Wollo and Afar region have returned to their original villages and this could be accelerated over the shortest possible time.
As stated earlier, all concerned bodies who participate in the relief and rehabilitation programs in war affected areas need to work under the coordination and planning process to be jointly prepared through joint efforts of all stakeholders. This will help to optimize the positive impacts of both the relief and rehabilitation programs as well as regular development undertakings.
Of particular importance is the operational linkage and networking among the line ministries and various sectors that are expected to be at the frontline in providing relief and rehabilitation assistance to the war affected regions. It is necessary to link up the planned activities at the federal level with concerned bureaus and offices at the regional and zonal levels
As stated earlier, the relief and rehabilitation program for war affected northern Ethiopia certainly require huge amount of fund that cannot be covered only from Federal Government budget. In his recent briefings to diplomatic community in Addis Ababa, Redwan Hussein National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister quoted the Ministry of Finance saying that some 20 billion USD is required to finance the entire relief and rehabilitation programs in the war affected Tigray and other regions.
The author of this article is of the opinion that an international fund raising program could be organized to raise the necessary fund by pledges from international donor agencies, G7 countries and friendly partners and countries across the world.
The relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction programs that are to start as soon as possible may take longer time than expected but a top priority must be accorded to life saving relief programs across the regions.
The above tasks that need to be accomplished by the government and international partners will help restore normal life for those citizens who sustained sufferings and wounds that need to be mended.
The cooperation and participation of the population affected by the war in the regions is of critical importance not only in the context of the relief and rehabilitation programs but also in ascertaining the fulfilment of the development programs in the regions and also for ensuring lasting peace in the three regions.
Ethiopians at home and citizens of Ethiopian origin abroad need to organize various fund raising programs so that they can siphon resources required for the programs to be conducted in the war torn areas of northern Ethiopia.
Ethiopia needs to embark on development programs—which were stalled due to the war, as part of implementing of the Ten Years National Plan.