The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission

By Gebreselassie Atsbahha

Gebreselassie Atsbahha is Emergency Relief Officer with the EOCDICAC. He has over 20 years of experience in humanitarian, social protection and development works, both in governmental and non-governmental organisations in various parts of the country. His has a MSc in Land Resources Management and Environmental Protection.

The author would like to acknowledge Alive and Thrive, Ethiopia for the efforts it is making to alleviate malnutrition and the problems associated in Ethiopia. The leadership quality of Dr Teweldebirhan Hailu, senior country director of the organisation, as well as the harmony and commitment of the staff is really appreciated.

The Ethiopia Orthodox Church (EOC) is one of the oldest churches in the world. The church is also the largest denomination in Ethiopia with more than 40 million followers, which is approximately 40- 50% of the total population. One can observe the impacts of EOC in almost all aspects of the country's history and present image and the EOC continues to play an important role in the social, economic, cultural, educational and political life of the country.

EOC-DICAC objectives

In order to respond to both the emergency and longer term needs of the population, the church established a development wing in 1972, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission (EOC-DICAC). The EOC-DICAC is one of a few active ecumenical development organisations in the country. It is engaged primarily with the objective "to help disadvantaged communities attain self reliance by tackling the root causes of poverty, drought, conflict and HIV/AIDS by promoting a sustainable development programmes". The EOC-DICAC works within the regulations and laws governing nongovernmental organisations (NGOs). The Vision of EOC-DICAC is to help create a just society in which everyone has access to the basic necessities of life.

An EOC-DICAC team surveying a mosquito breeding sites in Amhara region, Guangua district

EOC-DICAC activities

To achieve its objective, EOC-DICAC is involved in the following major areas of activity:

Since its establishment, the EOC-DICAC has implemented many relief and development projects. By mid-2010, the EOC-DICAC was implementing more than thirty projects in different parts of the country covering integrated rural development, water supply and sanitation, relief and rehabilitation, HIV/AIDS prevention and control projects and refugee and returnee programmes.

The EOC-DICAC has more than 20 US and European based partners and has an annual budget of around US $ 30 million. The main donors include (but are not limited to) UNHCR, EU,UNICEF, UNDP, Christian Aid, Dan Church Aid, ACT-Forum, Water Aid, Intermon-Oxfam, USAID and World Vision. The EOC-DICAC also works closely with other Church based and Church affiliated organisations.

Emergency response

During periods of drought, internal conflict and other emergency situations, the EOC-DICAC supports the responses arising from the government's national emergency appeals. The EOC-DICAC has the capacity to be involved in life saving interventions through the provision of food aid, farm tools, seeds, small animals/ruminants, supply of water and other basic life saving inputs. Priority is given to supplementary feeding of children and the provision of a monthly take home ration (typically 4.5kg per month) to other vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and the sick.

EOC-DICAC also supports environmental rehabilitation activities in some areas, such as area closures, soil and water conservation structures, seedling production and distribution. Apart from this, the commission has tried to expedite crop production, livestock development activities and introduce vegetables and fruit trees. By so doing, these activities aim to have a role in improving the nutritional status of children and improve dietary diversity of the target families.

In coordination with District Health Officers, orientation and awareness creation on HIV transmission, protection mechanisms and the use of voluntary counselling and HIV testing is also a key activity. Pilot projects on HIV/AIDS orphan care at parish churches have also shown promising success.

To date, EOC-DICAC has made great strides in its service to the disadvantaged populations of Ethiopian society and its programmes have strengthened communities to better sustain themselves during periods of extreme hardship. EOC-DICAC has succeeded in community mobilisation to fight against the root causes of poverty, HIV/AIDS pandemic and environmental degradation. The organisation has also built schools and health posts to create access for education opportunities and health services for thousands of rural family members in the country.

The water supply scheme construction projects create opportunities for millions of Ethiopian people to get potable water, reduce the workload of women and children, minimise the prevalence of water borne diseases and increased awareness of hygiene and sanitation. Rural roads constructed by EOC-DICAC have also contributed to the mobility of rural communities and increased their accessibility to the nearest towns and markets.

Working with women

EOC-DICAC is very concerned about women's participation in development and makes sure that the following issues are addressed right from the project design up to the phase-out of projects:

The basis for the emergency and development initiatives of EOC-DICAC is the fundamental doctrine of the Church/Bible "Everyone who has gives to those in need". The initiation of the whole effort put by the Church so far has emerged from its doctrine or internal spiritual belief that urges everyone to help those who are relatively poor in the society.

For further information, contact: Gebreselassie Atsbahha, P.O BOX: 503, Ethiopia. tel: + 251 911 687909 Fax +251 111 551455, email: gats2005@gmail.com

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Reference this page

Gebreselassie Atsbahha (2011). The Ethiopian Orthodox Church Development and Inter-Church Aid Commission. Field Exchange 40, February 2011. p74. www.ennonline.net/fex/40/ethiopian