Building Resilience in Ethiopia

Between March 2019 and March 2024 we supported the Government of Ethiopia, through a Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) £26m technical assistance facility, in strengthening disaster risk management systems and building greater resilience to climate and humanitarian shocks.


The challenge

In recent decades there has been a marked rise in the number, severity and impact of climatic and humanitarian disasters on vulnerable people in Ethiopia. The last few years have been particularly challenging, with massive internal conflict, locust invasions damaging food and cash crops, the Covid 19 pandemic, as well as severe droughts and floods. These shocks impose a heavy humanitarian and economic cost on the country, constraining growth and development. 

Nevertheless, in spite of these shocks severely impacting the government’s budget and ability to respond, it is pressing ahead with reforms and investments in disaster risk management and climate change adaptation measures. In support of developing systems and institutional capacity in disaster risk management, FCDO and USAID contracted us to manage a technical assistance facility to strengthen the government’s capacity to prepare for and respond to shocks.

Our approach

The Building Resilience in Ethiopia – Technical Assistance (BRE-TA) facility supported federal, regional and sub-regional governments to strengthen their life-saving humanitarian response capability. The purpose was to reduce the effects of climatic and humanitarian shocks on vulnerable people and the economy by reducing the depth (severity) and length (duration) of a shock, thereby saving lives and protecting livelihoods.

Our work with the government focused on creating systemic and sustained improvements to the way disaster risks are managed. The support to government helped move critical reforms around the policy cycle, achieved by working on the issues the government wanted help with at their pace. The graphic below captures how we strengthened government’s capacity to prepare for and respond to climate and humanitarian shocks by preparing applied policy research, developing policy options and supporting implementation across the policy cycle.

TA was provided across four inter-related workstreams:

Disaster risk management. We supported the Ethiopian Disaster Risk Management Commission and Ministry of Planning and Development to strengthen institutional and governance arrangements for the effective coordination of DRM operations at all levels of government. We worked with these institutions to:

  • Integrate disaster risk management into Ethiopia’s national and regional long and short term development plans;
  • Update the national Disaster Risk Management Policy and develop an accompanying legal framework for implementation of the policy;
  • Mainstream disaster risk management across sectors and regions, including through developing and supporting the roll-out of Disaster Risk Informed Planning;
  • Strengthen oversight of the humanitarian response through better coordination within government and with donors; and
  • Work across ministries to reach consensus and develop implementation plans for a multi-hazard, multisectoral Early Warning System.

Public health emergency management. We worked with the Ethiopian Public Health Institute and the Ministry of Health to develop improved public health emergency management systems capable of anticipating and responding effectively to a variety of shocks by:

  • Developing national and regional Public Health Emergency Management Strategies aligned to the Health Sector Transformation Plan (HSTP II) that provides the basis for costed implementation plans;
  • Strengthening leadership for effective health and nutrition emergency preparedness, response and recovery;
  • Engaging Higher Educational Institutions in public health emergency management;
  • Developing a greater focus on nutrition in emergencies, including Emergency Nutrition Guidelines and standardized training on emergency nutrition; and
    Institutionalising risk-informed planning in order to prioritise the allocation of resources to the prevention of locally-identified risks in local Emergency Preparedness and Response Plans.

Shock-responsive safety nets. We supported the Ministry of Agriculture to enhance shock-responsive social protection through its Productive Safety Nets Programme by:
Strengthening the shock-responsive element of aid delivery systems and structures to ensure quicker and more efficient responses to shocks targeted at where the need is greatest;

  • Ensuring that decisions to trigger and target support from the shock-responsive component of the safety net are based on sound early warning information;
  • Ensuring that functional grievance redress mechanisms enable client feedback to inform safety net operations;
  • Quantifying the resources required for the shock-responsive safety net and ensuring they are available when and where they are needed through the government’s Drought Risk Financing Strategy.

Disaster risk financing. We worked with the Ministry of Finance, including the Climate Resilient Green Economy facility, to ensure that Ethiopia’s public finances are better prepared for climate and humanitarian shocks by:

  • Diversifying disaster risk financing options and sources, including mobilization of international climate finance through developing a national Disaster Risk Financing Strategy;
  • Securing more ex-ante financing through the budget, to allow better preparation for shocks, and to reduce the overall fiscal (and human) impact of shocks by lowering the opportunity costs for sectors hit by budget cuts due to disasters;
  • Promoting efficient and effective disaster risk spending through support for the development of evidence-based budgets by key sectoral ministries, and improved evaluation of the budgets by the Ministry of Finance;
  • Providing guidelines and tools to help local governments to produce and implement climate-smart development plans; and
  • Developing tools to quantify disaster-related fiscal risks, and moreover ways to tag and monitor disaster-related spending and integrate disaster risk management and climate change into the public finance management cycle.

Gender equality and social inclusion. We worked with the government to ensure that gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) were mainstreamed and integrated into disaster risk management policies and programmes. This involved working closely with the staff of key ministries and Gender Directorates to identify gaps in the understanding of the relevance of GESI, and the challenges in addressing those gaps. Work focused on strengthening the capacity of staff in gender directorate to take this work forward, including through a technical GESI Community of Practice.

Operational research

We also delivered several operational research projects in Ethiopia that cut across the four workstream outlined above.

Covid-19 effects on poor and vulnerable urban populations in Ethiopia

We undertook research for the Ministry of Health and Ethiopia Public Health Institute to understand the effects of Covid 19 and the government’s response measures on poor and vulnerable populations in urban areas of Ethiopia. It explored the impact of measures such as stay-at-home physical distancing policies on urban populations where population density is high, public services (including health, and water, sanitation and hygiene services) are poor, and livelihoods are precarious.

SWAN evaluation: assessing the effectiveness of the humanitarian response

We evaluated the SWAN project (‘Provision of Essential Humanitarian Supplies of Health, WASH, and Emergency Shelter/Non-Food Items Through Timely and Cost-Effective Procurement and Response Mechanism’) implemented by a consortium of international non-governmental organisations. The evaluation was commissioned by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) on behalf of the Ethiopian Humanitarian Fund (EHF) Advisory Board and covered the period between March 2019 and October 2020.

The evaluation showed that SWAN was largely effective in achieving its overarching objective of saving lives, reducing suffering, and increasing human dignity for people affected by displacement in Ethiopia. In-kind and cash-based modalities were both shown to reach beneficiaries and largely correspond to the most urgent needs. However, critical shortfalls were also noted, including views from beneficiaries that the amount of support received was not adequate to meet their needs, that the quality of the support was at times insufficient, and that the support was not sufficiently timely.

Some important references:

Building Resilience in Ethiopia – Technical Assistance (BRE-TA) Project Completion Report and its Annexes (note: the Annexes are large and may take some time to download).

Synthesis of BRE-TA reports for strengthening the DRM system in Ethiopia (chapeau study)

Study to assess the effectiveness of the National Disaster Risk Management Commission’s coordination role in recent disasters

Review of Good International Disaster Risk Management Practice

DRM mainstreaming gains in key ministries in Ethiopia

Areas of expertise