Since early1970’s, EKHCDC has been intensively and extensively involved in relief, rehabilitation and integrated development programs targeting the regions such as Amhara, Oromia, Southern Regional State, etc. There are different development activities being run by the organization, including activities related to water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS and Health, training and education, self-help group organization, relief and rehabilitation, rural development, and prevention of female genital mutilation (FGM). As a result, the implementation of these activities, millions of people have directly and/or indirectly benefited for over the decades.
EKHCDC is an efficient organization in terms of resource utilization. The reason behind for such an efficiency is that the church has an extra–ordinary infrastructures across the country that include more than 9,5000 local churches, hundreds of bible schools, offices built by the church in different parts of the country, etc. The church also mobilizes a large number of volunteers for different development initiatives. For example, today all nearly 10,000 local churches are available for running the literacy program; there are offices free of charge for any local church-based development initiatives.
On the other hand, EKHCDC has got a long reputation in the areas such as health, education, and water and sanitation. During the last decade, its large-scale engagement in prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and FGM as well as mobilizing local communities into effective self-help groups have given the church a high profile both nationally and internationally.
Local and international partners
One of the greatest resources of EKHCDC in the process of its development activities is the local partners involved in providing different inputs including knowledge and skills. The local and regional relevant government offices are major stakeholders in facilitating the whole development processes maintaining the outcomes of such processes as well as by owning both (the processes and outcomes) alongside EKHCDC. EKHCD often receives important supports—such as technical, materials (for example, allowing duty free imports) and overall security — to effectively implement its programs and projects across the country.
There are also highly important interest groups who have been working with us in different sectorial areas: water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, FGM, for example, are but some to mention. Such interest groups include faith-based organizations and associations (including Evangelical Fellowship of Ethiopia), women’s associations, National Committee on harmful traditional practices of Ethiopia (or now called EGLDA), etc. At the grass root-level, EKHCDC works with the communities at the Kebele and house hold levels, schools, churches and mosques, Idirs, etc., involving different communities in their own development processes . For example, in the case of prevention of female circumcision EKHCDC worked with 500 Kebeles in ten districts, hundreds of schools, more than 3000 local churches and mosques, and hundreds of Idirs and anti-FGM uncircumcised girls clubs.
There, food security, drought resilience, relief, women empowerment, child sponsorship, for example, are but some to mention. Such interest groups include faith-based are also highly important interest groups who have been working with us in implementing different sectoral areas: water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, pre-school literacy and numeracy skills organizations and associations (including Evangelical Fellowship of Ethiopia), women’s associations, National Committee on harmful traditional practices of Ethiopia (or now called EGLDA), etc. At the grass root-level, EKHCDC works with the communities at the Kebele and house hold levels, schools, churches and mosques, Idirs, etc., involving different communities in their own development processes . For example, in the case of prevention of female circumcision EKHCDC used to work with 500 Kebeles in ten districts, hundreds of schools, more than 3000 local churches and mosque, and hundreds of Idirs and anti-FGM uncircumcised girls clubs, and the approach found to have been effective.
EKHCDC is sincerely thankful now and then to our international partners whose inputs often make us capable of achieving our strategic goals. We have honest and committed partners in Europe, Australia, and America who get on real task with us in assessing the feasibilities of our projects and programs, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of our current activities, and appreciating the contextual needs of our organization and marketing them on our behalf in their own countries and cultures. Without their patient, costly and committed involvement it would have been impossible to achieve partially or completely what we have achieved so far.
Approaches in use
- Working relationship with the communities get established through the government offices and sometimes through the local churches. The community and political leadership has got a vital role to play in creating a conducive environment to initiate different community-based development programs. For example, water and sanitation program requires requests to come first directly from potential beneficiary communities via the church or government offices. Then, working through the established official structure continues until the community mobilization and education teams enter the community one week prior to the start of installing the infrastructure for potable water.
- To address relief and emergency issues, EKHCDC opens feeding and food aid distribution centers in those already identified hot spot areas by the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness of the regional and national government office. Nevertheless, EKHCDC collects fresh data and compile and share the findings with its partners to get their supports. At times, EKHCDC uses labor intensive approaches (such as road constructions, soil and water conservation as well as tree planting through food for work programs) in order to encourage the local community remain engaged in their own development.
- The local community’s participation is key approach that is often used to help them identify their needs and priorities. Such participation is enhanced through working with the local community institutions such as schools, Kebeles, churches, mosques, and Idirs. Hundreds of churches, Idirs, and mosques are actively involved in the prevention and control of HIV/AIDS and FGM, for example.
- In terms of child-care and support, EKHCDC uses both institution-and community-based approaches. The needs of orphans and vulnerable children are meet through sponsorship programs that provide educational supports, medical care, and basic assistances including food and clothing. On the other hand, the children cared for by the centers are provided with food, clothing, shelter and medical care.
- Building the local community capacity through training, workshops, and discussion forums so that the community at large acquire the general awareness on its plight and take charge of what is happening on its behalf. In this connection, EKHCDC organizes, for example, committees, volunteers, and clubs to effectively mobilize the members of community towards achieving the set goals. In addition, hundreds of thousands of school age children receive first hand literacy and numeracy programs being run by the local churches using volunteers, for example. Therefore, since the last ten or so years, the community access and awareness of information regarding health and sanitation, child education in general and girl-child education in particular, prevention and eradication of harmful traditional practices (including FGM), etc.… have remarkably been improved.
- EKHCDC also uses mass media, especially radio (FM) programs and occasionally TV to disseminate information on its plans, activities, and achievements. Again, information is being transmitted through its current structure starting from the Head Office to the local churches. The Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church has got over 9,500 local churches with members of 10 million across the country. The local churches are being used as church media to trickle-down important information via them to the larger community.
Different approaches are being in use by different programs and departments depending on their various activities and geographic target areas. Some of these are highlighted as follows.
Commitment and faithfulness in Ethiopia
(Issued by Tearfund Australia)
In the past few years, Ethiopia has faced the dual crises of conflict in the Tigray region, in the country’s north, and severe drought and food insecurity in the south. It’s estimated that more than 20 million people are in need of food support, including the millions who have had to flee their homes as a result of these crises. Abraham Alembo, from Tearfund’s partner the Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission, shares about the challenges of serving communities in a hard place like this, where needs are overwhelming and resources limited, and how he has felt God’s protection and encouragement in the most difficult of situations. Story by Emma Halgren
In November 2020, the people of Tigray found themselves caught up ina conflict between federal and regional government forces. Tearfund’s partners
the Ethiopian Kale Heywet ChurchDevelopment Commission (EKHCDC) and Tearfund Ethiopia both ran emergency responses to provide food, shelter water and hygiene services to more than 16,000
internally displaced people, along with rehabilitation programs to support people to return to their homes and livelihoods.1 In southern Ethiopia, the worst drought to hit the Horn of Africa in 40 years
created severe food insecurity and a hunger crisis. EKHCDC, with support from the Emergency Action Alliance through Tearfund’s partnership, provided support for around 1300 households, many of
whom had to leave their homes to be closer to essential relief. Tearfund also supports EKHCDC in its development work, running literacy and numeracy programs for pre-school aged children, and water, sanitation and hygiene provision.
Abraham Alembo, who is head of humanitarian aid and peace building work for EKHCDC, says the organisation’s work is holistic and Christ-centred.
“I think the church is engaging in a holistic ministry to address the needs of the people – the physical and the spiritual needs of the people. We are following Jesus’ model. He was addressing spiritual needs and at the same time, physical needs. He fed
those who were hungry, he healed those who were sick and physically deformed. At the same time he was preaching the kingdom of God so that everybody should join that kingdom and get eternal life. So both physical and spiritual needs go hand in hand. We can’t separate one from the other.”
In the context his organisation is working on, as in other hard places around the world, the level of need far outstrips available resources to address
that need. How does an organisation like EKHCDC manage this? “That is the most difficult challenge
we face in our direct connection with the community,” said Abraham. “The need is very high. The people who need the support are too many, but our resources are very much limited, and
it is very difficult to select the most affected groups because everybody looks affected. Their situation literally tells you that they are really in a hard
situation. Just to balance our response, we will usually focus on the most affected groups. To do that, we set selection criteria, just to differentiate
one affected group or one affected family from the other.” They work closely with local churches
and government bodies to determine which locations should be the focus of their humanitarian response.
“The weight of the challenge for one household may not equal the challenges of other households. If the household has a very large family size, we give priority to that household. If the household is female-headed, we give priority to that household. If there are some malnourished groups in the household, old aged and more vulnerable groups, we give priority to those. Everybody has need, but we give priority to a person who is going to die tomorrow. If a person is going to die next week, we give priority to the person who is going to die tomorrow. That is the logic we follow.” While mechanisms like this are important to ensure that responses are effective and the people in most severe need receive life-saving support, what about the emotional – and a spiritual – impact of witnessing overwhelming need, day after day? “Usually I am known by my tears,” Abraham says. “It affects your emotions to be honest, when you see people who are really in need of food. It is very difficult. You know, I still have this picture in my mind and in my sight. I visited one of the IDP camps in Mekele and saw a lady who was carrying a baby. She was malnourished, her body features tell us that she is anaemic and malnourished, [but] she is giving her breast, which has no milk, and this child is sucking no milk. It is very difficult when you see such a challenging environment for the people you are serving, it does not give you comfort. So, sometimes I get time to cry and to pray.” He says security issues also pose a serious challenge. “When we go to the northern part of the country, the security situation is fluid. It changes time after time, and you can’t trust what tomorrow brings – you can’t predict what tomorrow is going to be. In the south even, when we travel … there are armed groups on the highway, sometimes they block the road. It’s risky.” Abraham describes a particularly tense and frightening time in 2020, when he and his colleagues found themselves caught up in a security situation in Mekele, the capital city of the Tigray region. “What we did is we knelt down and prayed in tears,” he said. “We were praying and praying in tears. Then, Pray with us Join us in praying for the work of EKHCDC in Ethiopia. • Pray for people as they try to rebuild their lives and communities, and mourn lost loved ones, following the two-year conflict in Tigray. • Give thanks for Tearfund’s partner EKHCDC for its faithful and steadfast work to support people in the drought-affected south of the country. Give thanks too for the other members of the Tearfund family who help to support this project. • Give thanks for the courage, faithfulness and prayerfulness of EKHCDC staff as they daily witness suffering and hardship. when it was time for me to pray, the Lord gave us a verse from Deuteronomy 31, verses seven to eight. It says, the Lord is the one who goes before you. He will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you. Do not fear not be dismayed. That’s the word which encouraged us.” After some time, they were able to leave the area and drive to a safer region. Other vehicles were being ordered to turn back or surrender their keys to armed militia, but Abraham and his colleagues passed through without being touched or even stopped on the way. “It was challenging, but the God who gave us this verse was faithful. Nobody touched us. … That is the miraculous work of the Lord,” said Abraham. In the acute phase of humanitarian responses the focus is on saving lives, but EKHCDC also builds in a restoration phase, to help communities look to their future. For example, while rains have now come to some droughtaffected regions, this has not provided relief for the vast majority of people who are dependent on livestock for their livelihoods. In Borana, one of the regions where EKHCDC has been working, more than one million people lost all their means of living – animal and crop production – as a result of the drought, with nearly 1.5 million livestock having died. Those livestock that survived were very weak and producing little or no milk, which is a major source of nutrition for children. One of EKHCDC’s responses has been to assist pastoralists with restocking – providing them with small ruminants like goats and sheep – but also to encourage them to think about other ways of supporting themselves in the future – for example, destocking and putting money in the bank. “Restocking can cover the economic gaps of the community,” he said. “[But] the rain has less advantage for the people in Borana, because they are pastoralists. In Borana, life is totally connected with the lives of the livestock. In the future, the communities should think about some other ways to build their economies. “The people say that the challenges they faced recently have never happened in the past history,” said Abraham. “If they face such a drought, maybe it is for some months, for half a year. This is for two and a half years, continuously.” EKHCDC is committed to serve communities through the challenges that arise in the future. “Commitment and faithfulness, it matters,” he said. “When you engage in humanitarian works, you have to put yourself in the challenge that people are facing. As long as we are taking [on] the mission that Jesus started, we have to be in his commitment also. Yes, there are challenges in the environment, there are challenges in the operations, but we have to commit ourselves to serve the people.”