CRS History in Ethiopia
Ethiopia is the oldest independent nation in Africa, with recorded histories dating back more than 2,000 years. Since 1958, Catholic Relief Services has been working in Ethiopia to help the country respond to chronic emergencies and build the foundations needed to withstand future shocks.
Since our arrival, CRS has taken a leading role in responding to Ethiopia's natural and man-made disasters. During the early years, programs focused on school feedings and mother and child nutrition.
Emergency activities rose to new heights in response to the 1984–1985 famine, which tragically claimed the lives of more than 1 million people. In collaboration with Lutheran World Federation and the country's three main churches — Ethiopian Catholic Church, Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Mekane Yesus — CRS launched one of the largest relief operations in the country, called the Joint Relief Partnership (JRP). The JRP helped save millions of people by delivering and distributing hundreds of thousands of metric tons of food in 1985 and 1986.
Since 1985, rains have continued to fail on a recurring basis, resulting in new droughts and famines. When acute hunger arises, CRS and our church partners answer the call by distributing emergency relief food. As a result of the 2002–2005 drought, CRS, as the lead member of the Joint Emergency Operational Plan, distributed 970,000 metric tons of USAID-funded Title II emergency food to over 1 million people.
Clearly, the cyclical nature of Ethiopia's rain failures and famines demands forward-looking solutions that enable families to withstand recurring natural disasters. CRS' current programs combine long-term development programming with emergency aid when necessary to help people grow enough food and earn sufficient income, even in times of crisis. Current programs are also addressing the recent rise in HIV infections and need for prevention and care. Moving forward, CRS will continue to help Ethiopians ease the country's heavy burden of poverty by working closely with the government and partners to solve complicated development issues.