In 2021, armed conflict in northern and central Ethiopia forced thousands of people to flee their homes and seek refuge in Debre Birhan, a small city on the outskirts of the capital, Addis Ababa. The city is now home to over 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). The influx of IDPs has placed significant pressure on local healthcare services and the availability of essential medications.
Health systems under pressure
The UN estimates that there are over 4.5 million IDPs living in Ethiopia. When displaced populations arrive in their host communities, they often present with many and complex medical needs. This leads to local health facilities becoming overwhelmed. Increased demand for essential medications in Debre Birhan has led to shortages of life-saving medications. IDPs are often forced to travel very long distances to find pharmacies with these essential drugs in stock.
Bekele Gebre, the head of Debre Birhan’s Health Bureau, said: “It’s not easy. Even two or three thousand unplanned service recipients place strain on the system. [The IDPs] are our people, and we must support them no matter what – but the impact has been significant.”
Facilitating access to life-saving medications
GOAL has been operational in Debre Birhan since 2021. This year, GOAL extended this support thanks to generous financial support from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund. GOAL staff in Ethiopia conducted needs assessments and identified the most crucial medications required by IDPs. In September, GOAL Ethiopia handed over 9.5 million Ethiopian birrs (approximately €155,137) worth of life-saving medications to the metropolitan city.
“GOAL has been with us during difficult periods and continues to engage in diverse humanitarian activities. The provision of these drugs will alleviate the burden,” Bekele Gebre said. “Usually, there is a minimum payment to cover the cost of medicine and some equipment, but now the service is provided to IDPs for free. This support will help us bridge the gap, and we are grateful for GOAL’s commitment and the financial support from the UN OCHA Ethiopia Humanitarian Fund.”
GOAL Ethiopia’s Mobile Health Team (MHT) operates within two IDP camps in Debre Birhan. The MHT collaborates with existing healthcare posts, centres, and hospitals in the referral chain to provide medical assistance to vulnerable populations.
Birhanu Mengesha, Senior Health and Nutrition Officer at GOAL Ethiopia, said: “We feel that this support arrives just when it is desperately needed. It enables us to treat common cases that can be managed by the MHT within the camp, saving IDPs what little time and money they have. We are grateful for the EHF’s support; our intervention is made possible through their generosity. We hope this commitment continues until the IDPs can transition back into a stable way of life or return to their former homes.”