Ethiopia and COVID
Ethiopia appears to be recovering from a second wave of COVID-19 infections, with cases having peaked in April this year, although the virus is almost certainly more widespread than implied by official figures. Despite higher case numbers than last year, the authorities have adopted a less stringent form of lockdown compared to last year, as they are keen to avoid the severe social and economic impact caused by last year’s COVID restrictions.
The government’s attempts to follow Western economies with severe restrictions on social and business activity in 2020 proved disastrous for large parts of the population. With many families forced to stay at home together, often in cramped conditions with limited sources of income, we heard countless reports of rape and domestic violence. In addition, many of our women told us that they had lost their jobs as shops and offices closed, and many could not find enough income to pay their rent. The level of desperation was so extreme that some women were asking us to look after their children to ensure they survived.
This time around, despite case numbers being much higher the government has taken a more relaxed stance to lockdown. However, the situation remains concerning given very limited public healthcare provision and the threat of more contagious variants emerging. The country also has extremely limited capacity for vaccination programs, with people telling us that it is impossible for them to get a vaccine. To date, Ethiopia has only managed to administer around two million vaccines, a negligible proportion of the 115 million strong population, with access to vaccines frequently reserved for those who can afford to pay.
Nevertheless, with restrictions having eased we are now able to offer more support than we could at this time last year, when we took in very few women and children, and had to stop all forms of training. Thanks to our team’s close cooperation with the local authorities, we are now able to ensure that we are back to full capacity in the house. COVID remains an ongoing threat across the country, but it is just one of many challenges that many people face.