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WFP and Saudi Arabia support drought relief project in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The World Food Programme (WFP) and Saudi Arabia have joined hands to provide emergency food assistance to drought-hit Ethiopians.
The two on Friday held a food aid hand-over ceremony as part of their effort to address over 127,666 peoples in drought-hit Somali region in south eastern Ethiopia.

The support from Saudi Arabia, through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, includes 1,938.8 tonnes of food items, worth 1 million U.S. dollars.

According to WFP, 103,040 Ethiopians have so far been reached through the joint emergency food assistance package.

"This particular contribution comes at a critical moment for Ethiopia. A serious drought has once more struck the country, placing millions of Ethiopians at considerable risk," said John Aylieff, WFP Representative and Country Director to Ethiopia.

According to Aylieff, 1.7 million people in the Somali region are currently facing "extremely difficult circumstances battered by unfavorable climatic conditions which have threatened their livelihoods and their existence".

The East African country has faced many climatic challenges in recent years.

The El Nino-driven drought that struck the country since 2015 was among the worst the country had seen in its history.

  A boy waits for the relief food to be distributed | Coastweek
HARORES WEREDA, (Xinhua) -- A boy waits for the relief food to be distributed in Harores Wereda, Southeastern Ethiopia, April 12, 2017. The World Food Programme (WFP) and Saudi Arabia have joined hands to provide emergency food assistance to drought-hit Ethiopians. XINHUA PHOTO BY: MICHAEL TEWELDE

This year’s drought, provoked by the Indian Ocean Dipole, has put more than 5 million Ethiopians in need of emergency assistance.


Ethiopia announces 24/7 hour hotline amid fears of diarrhea outbreak

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia has announced a free 24/7 hour emergency hotline to deal with an outbreak of water borne disease that has affected parts of its second largest region, the Somali regional state.

The emergency hotline numbers 952 and 8335 were announced after Acute Water Diarrhea (AWD) outbreak in the eastern Ethiopia region killed an unspecified number of people according to Yifru Berhan, Ethiopian minister of Health during a press conference he gave on Friday at the ministry’s head office in Addis Ababa.

"The outbreak came from three directions, one from people coming from Kenya, another from Somalia and a third one through travelers coming from the Ethiopian hinterland," said Berhan.

The ministry says it has currently deployed around 500 health professionals, and together with the Somali region administration is treating about 260 patients every day.

With around 5.8 million people needing food aid in Ethiopia due to droughts, a significant number of this in the largely pastoral Somali region, Berhan says the two factors are exacerbating the outbreak.

Though the ministry says so far the disease outbreak has been restricted to one region, it warns if the population does not take health precautions it can move to other areas including the capital Addis Ababa.

Last year an outbreak of AWD in Addis Ababa and other regions in Ethiopia caused a health scare and led to the deaths of several people before a government supported health campaign eradicated it.

UNDP recognizes Ethiopia’s human development gains

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recognized Ethiopia’s significant gains in human development and advised the East African country to work on its achievements.

Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative to Ethiopia, said Thursday Ethiopia still belongs to the low human development category.

"However, the country has made significant gains in human development, with the human development value increasing by 58.3 percent from 2000 to 2015," said Eziakonwa-Onochie.

Yinager Dessie, Ethiopian National Planning Commissioner, also asserted that the Ethiopian government, in addition to its efforts in improving access to basic public services, is committed to halt major social barriers, including corruption and gender discrimination.

"The Ethiopian government believes in ensuring sustainable and inclusive growth through human capital development and improving the quality of social services," he said.

Latest Human Development Report launched by UNDP on Thursday also urged the global community to invest in combating epidemics and violence and ensuring security.

According to the report, impressive progresses were registered in human development over the past 25 years.

"People now live longer; more children are at school; and access to basic social services has improved; and overall, there has been improvement in people’s standard of living," said the report.

The report, however, noted that the world’s citizens are not benefiting from equitable and universal access to quality education, health care, social protection and gender equality.

Out of 188 countries for which the human development index was presented, 41 countries belong to low human development category, the majority of which being in sub-Sahara Africa.

U.S. ban on foreign abortion funds hits family planning work in Ethiopia: NGO

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- The United States government reinstatement of bans on groups that provide abortions is endangering family planning works being done in Ethiopia, according to an NGO official.

Adam Zeleke, a Senior official at the Family Guidance Association of Ethiopia (FGAE) which at 51 years old is Ethiopia’s oldest family planning organization, says on Thursday up to 10 percent of their annual funds are affected by the ban.

In January, the administration of new U.S. President Donald Trump reinstated funding ban for international family planning charities that provide abortion or actively support the procedure.

Originally banned under the late U.S. President Ronald Reagan in 1984 from Republican Party, it was repealed by President Barrack Obama of Democratic Party in 2009 highlighting partisan divisions over abortion in the United States itself.

The volunteer based FGAE, through its 52 service delivery clinics, gives abortion services provided that the fetus or the expectant mother life is in danger, for individuals under 18 years of age, for victims of rape and incestuous relationship and for those who cannot afford to raise a child.

But the ban on abortion-related funds which amount to 20 million plus U.S. dollars annually has affected other gender and contraceptive services which have been mixed up in the ban, according to FGAE.

"FGAE gives reproductive health services to more than 500,000 people annually, helping cut the birth rate of Ethiopia’s ballooning population from 7 children per family in 1992 to 3.2 in 2016," says Zeleke.

FGAE also says contraceptive use in the same period has jumped from 4 percent to 32 percent of the general population.

With a population nearing 100 million, mostly youth, Ethiopia is facing the challenge of feeding its population and providing job opportunities for hundreds of thousands of new job seekers annually.

The U.S. government provides FGAE funds through its own institution Center for Disease Control (CDC), the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) and an NGO Pathfinder Ethiopia.

"Although the funding ban amounts to just 10 percent of our funds, the fact that we the U.S. government was the largest provider of funds to abortion services will affect our services greatly," says Zeleke.

Chinese engagement helps propel development in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- For a first time visitor to Ethiopia, it is hard not to miss the construction boom all across the country.

Indeed many expatriates compare it with China’s own construction boom of the 1980s and 1990s which eventually saw the Asian country become the world’s second largest economy and the largest trading partner to many nations.

One such sector witnessing construction boom are industrial parks being built mostly by Chinese companies with a view to boost Ethiopia’s exports in fields such as textile, leather and agro-industry.

Frehiwot Sisay, Office Manager at China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) is a first hand witness to the symbiotic relationship between Ethiopia and China.

Sisay, a graduate with civil engineering from South China University of Technology, says her decision to join CCCC partly was as a result of the modern buildings and infrastructure she saw as a student back in China.

"CCCC’s good reputation in Ethiopia in the construction of roads and bridges also factored in my employment decision," she says, adding that she believes Ethiopians should learn from the hard work ethics and development experience of China if the country is to develop fast.

Sisay was speaking as she was inspecting the construction progress of Arerti Industrial Park 130 km east of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital.

The project is one of several flagship projects of CCCC in Ethiopia.

Arerti is one of 17 industrial parks the Ethiopian government has envisaged constructing in its ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan II (2015-2020) to boost the country’s fledgling industrial base.

Sisay’s belief is echoed by Abebe Aynete, senior researcher at the Ethiopian Foreign Relations Strategic Studies (EFRSS), a local think thank.

He says Ethiopia’s policy of mutual benefit and promoting peace and stability to have sustainable economic development is something that echoes China’s lines.

"Both countries approach issues from national interest instead of ideological inclinations and favor multi-polar approach in their foreign policy," he says.

While the likes of Sisay are high skilled labor with tertiary education experience, Chinese firms’ willingness to invest in low technology and labor intensive industries means the opportunities are spread out.

Woody Lau, Business Manager at CCCC Arerti Industrial Park PLC says the completion of the first phase of Arerti would see about 300 people being employed, and a further expansion of the labor force is still to be expected in the second phase.

One such beneficiary is Aboret Alemu, a former soldier who was mentored by a Chinese carpenter with vital skills that has eventually allowed him to become a site manager at Arerti industrial park.

"I miss my Chinese mentor, he’s the father of my profession, but now he’s living in China, a good guy with a good work culture typical of Chinese people I’ve met who are good hard workers." He added.

Already the company has made itself a name in Ethiopia by completing the construction of the country’s first toll road, the Adddis-Adama toll road which was inaugurated in March 2014.

It’s also involved in an electrified rail project in the mountainous northern Ethiopia.

With the ever growing presence of Chinese expatriates, restaurants, projects and even educational institutions in Ethiopia, critics mainly westerners are accusing it of "creeping colonization" or "neo-colonialism".

With Ethiopia being the seat of the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa and dozens of other diplomatic missions, the accusations carry particular weight for Africa.

However, this is an accusation Aynete doesn’t buy pointing out Ethiopia doesn’t fit the natural resource country being exploited by powerful foreign countries.

"Ethiopia is an independent country that has its own historical development and external engagement which has refused even to liberalize to foreign market its banking and telecom sector," he explains.

"Furthermore as an agricultural economy transitioning to an industrial one, it needs Chinese investment in infrastructure which western countries are until recently absent from," Aynete says, adding that that Beijing’s consensus of no attachment of political strings has also attracted Ethiopia.

He further believes that China can help in one area where Ethiopia has been deficient until present times.

"Ethiopia is dependent on rain-fed agriculture vulnerable to climate change shocks. China with its experience of feeding its vast population can help meet that gap," says Aynete.

Sisay also dismisses the colonization claim pointing out cooperation with China brings advantages to both sides.

"China has the money and technological expertise.

"Ethiopia has material and labor resource.

"The more Chinese firms invest, the more Ethiopia develops hard work and matching experience," Sisay says.

There’s also another reason why Sisay rubbishes the "colonization" claim.

"Despite I being the only foreigner in the class back in China some years ago, I had supportive friends who used to play games, eat together and invite each other for holidays," she says, adding that as a mark of love, her Chinese friends even gave her a Chinese name, Xisai.

"Both the Chinese and western governments can pursue good relation with Ethiopian government as long as the country is peaceful and stable which is helpful for their national interest," says Aynete.


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