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The ICRC in Ethiopia and the African Union

14-05-2012 Overview

The ICRC delegation in Ethiopia focuses its work on the protection of detainees, the restoration of family links and the physical rehabilitation of disabled people. Enhancing its close partnership with the Ethiopian Red Cross Society is another priority. The ICRC delegation to the African Union (AU), based in Addis Ababa, works with the different AU bodies to draw attention to humanitarian issues and to promote implementation of international humanitarian law (IHL) throughout Africa and to raise awareness of the ICRC's role and activities on the continent.

The ICRC has been permanently present in Ethiopia since 1977. In recent times, the ICRC has engaged in dialogue with high-level authorities in order to regain access to federal prisons.

In the meantime, due to the impact of the 1998-2000 Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict, most of ICRC’s protection and assistance activities are concentrated in Tigray and Afar Regional States, in the north of the country. In these regions the ICRC visits detainees and monitors their living conditions and when needed makes recommendations on improvements to the authorities.

In Tigray and northern Afar, the ICRC pools its resources with the water boards and local communities to improve vital water infrastructure – constructing new wells and repairing hand pumps – and sanitation and hygiene.

The delegation, jointly with the Ethiopian Red Cross, works to restore links among families separated by armed conflict and natural disaster. Families affected by the Ethiopian-Eritrean border conflict and Sudanese and Somali refugees are getting help to establish contact with their family members.

To ensure that physically disabled people have access to good quality prostheses, orthoses and physiotherapy, the ICRC, in partnership with Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (MoLSA), supports seven physical rehabilitation centres. The centres receive staff, funds, materials and components to produce artificial limbs and other appliances. Along with this, in order to improve the quality of the services given, local staff are trained for three years.

To ensure the smooth running of its humanitarian operations, the ICRC, in partnership with the National Society, promotes international humanitarian law (IHL) for various target groups. Through seminars and presentations, it builds up grassroots support for IHL among government officials and community leaders, teachers, the armed forces and police.

The Ethiopian Red Cross, as the ICRC’s strategic partner, receives support to broaden its capacities in relief management and to reinforce its tracing and RCM network. The ICRC provides funds, materials and technical back-up to develop ERCS activities and infrastructure, particularly in violence-prone areas.

Pursuant to the cooperation agreement signed in 1992 between the ICRC and the Organization of African Unity (OAU), predecessor of the African Union (AU), the ICRC delegation to the AU has been working in close collaboration with the Commission and Member States of the AU, sharing experiences and views on humanitarian consequences arising from conflict. The ICRC delegation to the AU has "Observer Status" with the African Union.


Oromiya Regional State, Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the ICRC assist people who fled to a forest after violent ethnic clashes in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia. 

Oromiya Regional State, Liben Zone. The Ethiopian Red Cross Society and the ICRC assist people who fled to a forest after violent ethnic clashes in the Oromiya region of Ethiopia.
© ICRC / S. Areda