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GOAL On The Ground: Combating Covid-19 in Ethiopia


June 17, 2020 • 5 min read

As part of our ‘GOAL on the Ground’ series Kevin Naughton looks at how GOAL is helping vulnerable communities fight the spread of Covid-19 in Ethiopia.

The Challenges

As of mid-June, Ethiopia has over 3,500 confirmed cases of Covid-19 and 60 deaths. The first cases of the virus were identified on 13th March with many brought into the country by Ethiopians returning from the Middle East. Most cases have been in the capital city, Addis Ababa, home to over three million people. Covid-19 has to date been identified in most regions across the country.

In recent weeks, the spread of the disease has been increasing. According to a report from the Ministry of Health and Ethiopian Public Health Institute, the number of cases has been increasing by 10% daily for the last two weeks.

The Ethiopian economy has been hit hard by local restrictions and a drop in demand for Ethiopian products such as flowers. Over 26 million children have been unable to attend school, and one million of them have been unable to access school feeding programmes upon which they were reliant.

GOAL’s Response

Awareness and Support Campaign

With a population of over 110 million, access to healthcare across Ethiopia is limited. GOAL has adapted its existing programmes to respond to Covid-19 as well as role out new reactive initiatives. The focus of our campaign has been preventing the spread of the disease via information and awareness campaigns. These messaging campaigns are carried out remotely or from safe social distancing where possible. To date, GOAL has provided messaging to over 1.9 million people across five regions of Ethiopia.

GOAL is using its expertise and previous experience in disease prevention to assist local authorities and have trained over 100 government employees to participate in our disease awareness campaign. GOAL has ensured education materials have been translated into local languages for distribution in communities.

The funding for these activities has primarily come from by Irish Aid, ECHO, OFDA, UNOCHA and WFP.

Health and Hygiene

GOAL installed handwashing facility in Somali Region of Ethiopia

With limited access to health facilities and sustainable water supplies, maintaining good  hygiene to prevent Covid-19 is a challenge. GOAL has installed 483 hand washing facilities in different areas. In addition, GOAL has distributed soap and other hygiene materials to over 30,500 households. GOAL is also supplying local health authorities and partner organisations with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE).

Refugee Camps

Of particular concern is preventing the virus arriving and spreading in the four crowded refugee camps in which we work. Tierkadi and Kule camps are in Gambella Region in Western Ethiopia, where we support South Sudanese refugees, and we also have camps in Berhale and Asayita in Afar Region in the North East, where we support Eritrean refugees.

Across the four camps, over 32,000 direct beneficiaries are enrolled in GOAL’s programmes. These four refugee camps are in very remote areas with limited health care facilities. There are no hospitals in the camps, but there are health posts and health centres where preventative and basic curative services are provided. Refugees are permitted to access the host communities’ hospitals, but these facilities are already overloaded supporting Ethiopia’s national population, and the hospitals in these areas have no ICUs or ventilators.

Community Led Action (CLA)

GOAL is taking the Community-Led Action approach in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 in Ethiopia. This approach was developed by GOAL in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, and puts communities at the heart of COVID-19 campaigns.

Information session in Gambella Refugee Camp

In addition to this, GOAL has been adapting food and nutrition programmes, including how we  implementation of Family MUAC (Middle Upper Arm Circumference) programme. This is a method of measuring a child’s arm circumference to monitor their levels of malnutrition. GOAL is working with the Ministry of Health to customize this programme so it can continue in the context of Covid-19 where social distancing is necessary and aid workers are faced with travel restrictions.

Locust Infestation

Amidst the outbreak of this global pandemic. Ethiopia is facing its second locust infestation of the year. In January and February GOAL supported local authorities with measures to control the swarms and help communities protect their farms from the insects, such as spraying fields. The huge swarms appeared due to unusually early rainfall which produced the ideal conditions for the locusts to reproduce. The first swarm destroyed a significant value  of crops and wiped out the livelihoods of many vulnerable communities.

With a small swarm of locusts capable of travelling up to 150 kilometres in 24 hours and munch through the amount of food that 35,000 people would eat in a day in the process, the fear is that hunger will soon spread. Due to the Covid-19 lockdown, 20 million Ethiopians are already facing food shortages.

GOAL Ethiopia’s Nutrition Programme Managerm Benlay Ayalew photographs and stands amidst the locust swarn in the Borena region of Ethiopia in mid February of 2020.

Country Director for GOAL in Ethiopia, Dinkneh Asfaw, witness at first hand a locust swarm: “Fields of crops were wiped out before people’s eye. As we drove by on the roads from Teltele to Yabello, millions of swarms were crossing and infesting new areas surrounded by green pastures and leaves, while cattle and camels fled. In our areas of operation the crops of over 10,200 families were taken leaving these people and children will be without the means for food.”

GOAL has previous experiencing in combatting infectious diseases, including the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Our teams in Ethiopia and other countries are using this experience in addition to their local expertise to help vulnerable communities such as refugees combat the spread of Covid-19.