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Building Resilience in Ethiopia


Building Resilience in Ethiopia (BRE) is a three-year (2019–2022) technical assistance programme co-funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). BRE is implemented by Oxford Policy Management and operates under a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the Ministry of Finance and DFID in June 2019. The main aim of BRE is to support Ethiopia’s drive towards becoming a middle-income country, by strengthening nationally owned and led systems that better anticipate and respond to recurrent shocks and resulting acute needs. The BRE vision is in line with the National Disaster Risk Management Policy and will support the ‘Government of Ethiopia to lead and deliver an effective, gradually self-financed and accountable response to climate and humanitarian shocks’. BRE works in collaboration with other international development assistance partners such as the US Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organisation, and Public Health England.

The challenge

Ethiopia’s economy has made significant social and economic progress over the last decade, particularly in the agricultural and service sectors, yet recurring humanitarian crises have a heavy human and economic cost on the country, constraining its development. Although the Government has strengthened its ability to withstand these shocks, underpinned by a Disaster Risk Management Framework and the National Disaster Risk Management Commission, it lacks the integrated systems and institutional capacity to prepare for and manage crises efficiently and effectively.

Our approach

The programme’s goal is to enable the Government to develop and use two types of integrated systems that are essential for coordinating the complex array of actors and services that are needed to prepare for, respond to, and learn from crises. These systems include ‘Big S’ systems that provide the high-level institutional support, such as policies and funding, and ‘Small S’ systems that focus on delivery of aid at the point of need, such as targeting cash transfers.

The technical assistance to the Government under this programme will focus on the following four areas:

  • Ministry of Health and Ethiopian Public Health Institute supporting the effective development and delivery of shock responsive systems on nutrition and health.
  • National Disaster Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) – supporting effective leadership and coordination of an effective and accountable humanitarian response.
  • Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation (MOFEC) – supporting effective financial planning and structuring for disasters.
  • Monitoring & Evaluation building the capacity of the Government of Ethiopia to effectively monitor and evaluate support programmes in Ethiopia that respond to acute needs and independent monitoring and evaluation of humanitarian programmes of the Government and other actors.

Operational research

The programme is currently delivering several operational research projects in Ethiopia. One of these projects looks at ‘the effect of Covid-19 and Government response measures on poor and vulnerable populations in urban areas of Ethiopia’ which focuses on supporting the Ministry of Health and Ethiopia Public Health Institute in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 and urban poor and vulnerable populations in Ethiopia

This study aims to understand the impact of Covid-19 and government response measures on poor and vulnerable groups in urban areas in Ethiopia, looking specifically at the cities of Addis Ababa, Mekelle, Dire Dawa, Adama, Gambela, Bahir Dar, Jigjiga, Bulehora, Logia, and Semera. Covid-19 is expected to have particularly significant initial effects in urban areas, where population densities are extremely high, public services – including health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) – are often poor, livelihoods are precarious, and a range of other factors often have a negative impact on people’s lives (e.g. high levels of crime, gender-based violence, uncertainty for migrants/undocumented people, etc.). One particular control measure being widely used is physical distancing and movement restrictions, which have been introduced to huge sections of the global population in ways not experienced before. There are specific challenges in applying lockdown measures in low-income urban areas. The high density of informal and low-income settlements means administering physical distancing is  a problem and other impacts as a result of distancing may actually exacerbate transmission (e.g. crowding, increased social mixing in crowded conditions, indoor pollution, etc.): few houses have their own water source or toilets. Shared water posts, if there are water posts, and community toilets increases transmission risk for the people using these services. Above all, for the urban poor there is a fundamental conflict between economic survival and compliance with stay-at-home physical distancing policies.

This study comprises of six rounds of research which are undertaken by our implementing partners in Ethiopia: MERQ (Monitoring Evaluation, Research and Quality Improvement). The study hopes to develop an understanding of how Covid-19 and the associated government response has affected the lives of the urban poor through conducting six rounds of mixed method phone surveys, using both semi-structured interviews and qualitative diary style interviews with various groups in the urban poor demographic including daily labourers, IDP’s and refugees, small scale business owners, and beneficiaries of the Urban Productive Safety Net Project. As well as gathering accounts from the poor and vulnerable populations, KIIs were also conducted with local government officials, healthcare providers and various NGOs and CSOs.


The study has faced several challenges in its data collection. The political unrest that has unfolded in the north of the country has particularly created difficulties. We have also encountered disruption created due to internet outages throughout the country.

SWAN evaluation: assessing the effectiveness of the humanitarian response

We were commissioned to undertake an evaluation of SWAN—Provision of Essential Humanitarian Supplies of Health, WASH, and ES NFIs Through Timely and Cost-Effective Procurement and Response Mechanism (‘the SWAN project’). SWAN was implemented in Ethiopia by a consortium of four international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) (the ‘SWAN consortium’): Save the Children International (SCI), World Vision International (WVI), Action Against Hunger (AAH), and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Our report presents the findings for the evaluation which we undertook in partnership with Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Quality Improvement Consultancy PLC (MERQ), an Ethiopian consultancy firm based in Addis Ababa. The evaluation was commissioned by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on behalf of the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (EHF) Advisory Board. The scope of the evaluation covers the period between March 2019 and October 2020 and has two overarching intentions: to assess to what extent the SWAN consortium has been an effective humanitarian response mechanism as part of the wider humanitarian response; and to assess to what extent the approach undertaken by the SWAN consortium partners has been appropriate.

The overall results showed that SWAN has been largely effective in achieving its overarching objective of saving lives, reducing suffering, and increasing human dignity for people affected by displacement in Ethiopia. Both its in-kind and cash-based modalities were shown to reach beneficiaries and they largely corresponded to their most urgent needs, with the exception being that of food (which was mentioned as a gap in the support provided). However, critical shortfalls were also noted throughout SWAN’s relief support. These included views from beneficiaries that the amount of support received was not adequate to meet their needs, and that the quality of the support was at times insufficient to withstand the natural elements to which they were subjected. Other challenges were noted around timeliness, which was generally improved when compared with other RRMs in Ethiopia but still not adequate relative to the need.