Emergency Relief &
Aid for Ethiopia

Emergency relief is a first-step solution designed to save lives. It does not make sense to build infrastructure or change traditional ways of thinking about gender if people are starving to death or do not have water. First we get food to them and help them create food security; then we build from there.

Rainbow for the Future’s emergency relief responses in Ethiopia include:

  • Emergency grain supply (2002, 2008)
  • Emergency animal feed supply (2002, 2006, 2008)
  • Emergency veterinary service (2006, 2008)
  • Restocking (2003)

Best Practices in Emergency Aid

During the drought and subsequent famine in the 1980s, a key lesson was learned about the kind of emergency aid that works best when it comes to providing food.

During that period, the U.S. approach to Ethiopian aid was different from Canada’s. Their contribution was the free distribution of food, whereas Canadian projects were based on a food-for-work approach, in which people’s immediate food needs were met in exchange for them participating in the development of a more sustainable food source.

Ethiopia is facing its worst drought in 30 years.

Free distribution resulted in nothing but long lineups for food, whereas the food-for-work approach ensured that people would be able to feed themselves. When the results were seen, changes were made to American policy, and the free distribution model was abandoned. Emergency aid works best if a major component is the long-term objective of sustainability.

Emergency Relief is Critical Once More

In late 2015 / early 2016, another crisis began unfolding in Ethiopia. Due to its worst drought in 30 years, the country is in desperate need of emergency food aid. More than 10 million people need food and the situation is predicted to remain the same or worsen throughout 2016 as the El Niño drought is expected to continue.

The El Niño-triggered drought started in mid-2015. It failed to rain in the spring and the ensuing El Niño conditions severely weakened the summer rains that feed most of the country. The UN reports that there is a strong likelihood of a food shortage and nutrition disaster.


It’s critical that they get some rainfall soon, but some believe the current El Niño could be the strongest on record, resulting in more widespread need for the better part of 2016.

One of the hardest-hit areas is Afar, where we have a large number of past and current projects, and where we have developed many wonderful relationships. We have pulled out all the stops to develop some projects as quickly as possible, and we’re optimistic we can help our friends. Many families are facing imminent starvation.

Provision of School Materials

Exercise books, pens, and pencils will be provided to at least 500 children to facilitate attendance for the school year. Children receiving support will be selected from the most highly affected families.

Recovery Strategies

Once the drought ends, the recovery phase must begin immediately. Sageda (the implementing partner) will do a seed assessment to determine:

  • Whether farmers have seed stocks that are ready to plant
  • Which types of seeds they have and which types they need

Sageda will direct seed distribution and plan and organize seed check fairs, where farmers can redeem checks for seeds of their choosing on the local markets. The project coordinator and government agricultural office experts distributed seeds in January and February 2016 to 750 households. The seeds were as follows:

  • 20 tonnes of maize
  • 10 tonnes of wheat
  • 13 tonnes of teff
  • 10 tonnes of boloqe/beans
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