IOCC, Relief Agencies Push Long-Term Solutions in Ethiopia

Washington, D.C. (August 7, 2003) — A coalition of relief agencies, including International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), is calling for long-term solutions to “break the grip” of poverty and recurring famine in Ethiopia – the kind of solutions that IOCC is already beginning to implement.

The relief agencies held a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Aug. 6, to draw attention to the continuing food crisis in Ethiopia and the need for both immediate food aid and long-term development. Among the eight participating organizations were the Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services and Lutheran World Relief.

“The people of Ethiopia want to come together to respond to this crisis and make a difference,” said IOCC Executive Director Constantine M. Triantafilou, who recently returned from Ethiopia. “They want to be known for their rich history and culture, not for needing a handout.”

Triantafilou visited Ethiopia in late July to strengthen IOCC’s relationship with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Church’s humanitarian arm, the Development and Inter-Church Commission (DICAC). He also met with His Beatitude Patriarch Paulos and observed agriculture projects run by another IOCC partner, the Jerusalem Community Development Organization.

“There is a live and vibrant Church and population in Ethiopia that wants to help itself,” Triantafilou said. “We’ll continue to identify those partnerships and work through them to respond to the crisis in Ethiopia. It’s a logical relationship.”

An estimated 12.5 million Ethiopians are in immediate need of food aid, the agencies said on Wednesday. Ethiopians also need more effective ways of farming and meeting their long-term food needs. The lack of rainfall over the past three years has led to severe drought conditions, as well as crop and livestock losses, in Ethiopia.

In the coming weeks, IOCC senior staff will travel to Addis Ababa to develop a long-term plan and assist DICAC with its response to the food crisis. With new funding from the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, IOCC and its Church partners will begin to implement small-scale agriculture projects and a vocational training project for young people.

Among IOCC’s primary partners in Ethiopia are Orthodox monasteries and the Blue Nile Training & Outreach Center in Bahir Dar.

Ethiopian diplomat Dr. Brook Hailu, who attended Wednesday’s news conference, said IOCC’s partnership with the Church is critical to addressing Ethiopia’s long-term food needs.

“The monasteries have lots of land around them, and they are engaged in farming activities,” Dr. Hailu said. “In that respect, IOCC can play a very positive role in training these people, in showing them how to irrigate the land, in giving them better seeds, in teaching them better farming techniques. Such kinds of projects, initiated by IOCC, will be very fruitful.”

Dr. Hailu, deputy chief of mission for the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, said the Ethiopian government needs outside help to address the food crisis. “We can’t go on this way. We need long-term projects that will bring substantive change,” he said.

IOCC, the humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians, started agriculture projects in Ethiopia in 2001. An estimated 30 million Ethiopians — about 45 percent of the population — are members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.