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Profile and overview of the church’s role in emergency response

By Deed Jaldessa and Debela Kenea

Deed Jaldessa has over two decades experience in development work in rural Ethiopia and currently leads The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus Development and Social Services Commission (EECMY-DASSC) as a national Director. He has a BSc in Agriculture and a M.Sc. in Natural Resources management and sustainable agriculture.

Debela Kenea is Relief Programme Coordinator with the EECMY-DASSC. Born to a livestock rearing pastoralist family in a very remote, dry and harsh environment in southern Ethiopia, he is one of the luckiest children born in that area to be educated through the work of Norwegian Lutheran Mission and Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane.

We acknowledge invaluable support of many organisations and individuals. To mention a few related to current relief and rehabilitation programmes: UNOCHA/Christian AID, Act alliance, and Finchurchaid. Our words of appreciation also go to Mrs. Carmel Dolan for encouraging us to prepare the article and facilitating its publication and for her vital editorial inputs. Our thanks go to Ms. Marie McGrath for follow-up of the process and important reminders to finalise the work.

The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) was established as a national church in Ethiopia in January 1959. As part of the mission of the church, EECMY set out to work in the areas of health, education and community development under its Development Department. This gave birth to a full incorporation of the 'Holistic Ministry' concept of the church, developed and communicated to the Lutheran Communion (Lutheran World Federation (LWF)) in 1972. The Holistic Ministry concept is based on the broad understanding of human needs (physical, social and spiritual). The EECMY Development and Social Services Commission (EECMY-DASSC) is a legally registered1 faith-based development agency that took over the responsibility of the former Development Department of the Church in 2000, as required by the national policy of the Ethiopian Government. The Commission has robustly continued to work on humanitarian emergency response to disaster affected populations, building on strong experiences from the early 1970s and mid 1980s when the country faced widespread famine.

The EECMY-DASSC works in partnership with sister churches, development and humanitarian agencies in Ethiopia, Europe and North America. It is a leading member of church networks, such as the LWF, Action by Churches Together (ACT) Alliance and other evangelical fellowships in the country and abroad. The overall budget of the EECMY-DASSC in 2009 was Ethiopian Birr 200 million (approximately USD$ 12 million). These funds are raised from different sister churches, development and humanitarian agencies operating throughout the country and worldwide.

Five year strategy

The following programmes constitute the major strategic focus areas of the EECMY-DASSC in its current five-year plan. These programme priorities are closely aligned with the Government's poverty reduction programme and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs):

  1. Socio-economic development (food security, water supply, gender equality, environmental protection, income generation)
  2. Health and HIV/AIDS prevention and control
  3. Capacity building
  4. Child and Youth Care and Development
  5. Education (formal, informal/literacy, vocational and special needs education)
  6. Emergency Relief Response, Disaster Risk Reduction and Rehabilitation.

The EECMY-DASSC works through branch offices in 21 synods, which are local church units geographically located throughout the country. In total, the EECMY has 5.3 million church members representing around 7 per cent of the total population of Ethiopia.

When Dhabe's pastoralist Borana community lost many of their cattle during a drought, EEC-MYs cash-for-work scheme offered them a lifeline, enabling them to buy food and put in place measures to reduce the impact of future disasters.

Emergency relief and rehabilitation Emergency relief is a vital part of EECMYDASSC's work to respond to urgent humanitarian and further rehabilitation needs. The emergency relief response is aimed at providing resources either directly or in coordination with other national and international sister churches and NGOs to support emergency affected people who cannot survive without assistance. Beside the emergency responses to urgent needs, EECMY-DASSC also implements short and long term rehabilitation programmes focusing on capacity building of those affected and their local communities, The Commission works with Government line departments to secure necessary permissions and also to ensure that services are not being duplicated but well coordinated with other relief agencies. Most importantly, the Commission consult and participate with the communities to ensure transparency and so that the aid provided helps meet their needs.

Targeting and implementation

The overall national targeting for emergency assistance is carried out by the Government's Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector (DRMFSS) through twice-yearly food security assessments. Household beneficiaries are targeted, screened and registered by the community based participatory task force in woredas (districts) in need. The major part of the humanitarian response is usually covered by the Government. The Church's response is required in situations where the relevant government department, such as the DRMFSS, is unable to reach an area or needs the support of the Church to mount a response. In 2009, the EECMY-DASSC responded to emergencies in 10 woredas, reaching a total of 141,838 people with food aid and non food items (NFI) such as blankets, plastic sheets, soap, containers, mosquito nets, seeds and farm tools.

At the time of writing (October 2010), humanitarian assistance was being supported by the EECMY-DASSC and implemented by the Commission's synod offices in six different regions of the country experiencing emergencies (see Table 1). The Commission's synod offices are the agents responsible locally for planning, implementation and supervision of humanitarian aid in their respective operational areas. They also ensure community and other stakeholder's participation in decision making and providing coordinated assistance.

Table 1: Humanitarian assistance by EECMY-DASSC in Ethiopia (October 2010)
Region/District Type of emergency Population targeted Type of response Type of response
Oromia region- Gasera & Madwalbu districts Flood and drought 17,901 General and supplementary food distribution Wabe Batu synod
SNPP Region- Aleta Wando district Drought 20,000 General and supplementary food distribution South Central Ethiopia Synod
SNPP Region- Yirgachaffee Drought 20,380 General and supplementary food distribution South Synod
SNNP Region- Burji special district Drought 18,000 General and supplementary food distribution Amaro synod
Amhara region- Bati district Drought 32,143 General and supplementary food distribution North Central Ethiopia Synod
Gambella region- Jikawo District Drought 15,894 General and supplementary food distribution Western Gambella Bethel Synod
Gambella region Akobo District Tribal conflict 7,020 Non food items Western Gambella Bethel Synod
Gambella region- Itang District Flood 10,500 Disaster Risk Management East Gambella Bethel Synod


The EECMY-DASSC has a responsibility to ensure compliance with the rules, regulations and codes of conduct in the implementation of programmes. It provides staff training to ensure that they are responsible and qualified for the task. Further training and capacity building supports are also given to local farmer's association leaders, to coordination members of the district task force for aid work and to other local line departments' staff to ensure that they can fulfil their responsibility.

Challenges and opportunities for the future

Delays in assessment of an emergency often delay the actions needed to meet critical needs. EECMY- DASSC will need to strengthen its skilled human power and financial capacity for rapid assessment, as well as its capacity to mount even more effective responses in the food and nutrition sector.

In many affected woredas, the community's normal means of accessing food is compromised by both slow and rapid onset of disasters. Looking back over the past years, the Churches' contribution to food securityrelated emergency response has been considerable. To strengthen EECMY-DASSCs response in the future, it is important for the EECMY-DASSC to consider increasing its capacity in a range of response and programming areas based on a clear analysis of risks and needs. These will include:

Another area in which EECMY-DASSC would like to grow capacity is emergency nutrition and health support in marginal areas and in areas where displacement occurs due to various disasters.

For more information, contact: Deed Jaldessa, email:

Show footnotes

1In accordance to the Government's law for non-govern mental organisation (NGO's) registration for legal license, EECMY-DASSC was registered and certified by the Ministry of Justice as a development wing of the EECMY in 2000.

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Reference this page

Deed Jaldessa and Debela Kenea (). Profile and overview of the church’s role in emergency response. Field Exchange 40, February 2011. p21.



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