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Christian Aid | Breaking New Ground – Loss and Damage in Ethiopia

We hear from Christian Aid on their Humanitarian Emergency Fund funded project tackling the impacts of climate change in Ethiopia.

Soil turns to dust / Credit: Yared Araya

With the mercury nudging 40 degrees, a scorching, dusty wind blows sand across the arid landscape.

This is Dasenech, South Omo, in south-west Ethiopia. Communities here are living on the frontline of the climate crisis, and it’s robbing them of their ability to grow food, make a living and thrive.

When the usual rainy season fails to arrive; crops wither, animals starve, people wonder where their next meal will come from.

Yet when the rain does come, it can overwhelm; swallowing up land, damaging infrastructure and pushing people out of their homes.

In December 2023, at the start of the UN Climate summit COP28, the Scottish Government awarded £250,000 to Christian Aid from the Humanitarian Emergency Fund to support communities in Dasenech that suffer extreme climate change-related impacts known as Loss and Damage. Loss and Damage is a term much-used by campaigners, the UN and governments to describe the extreme effects of climate change that go beyond what people can cope with, and crucially it includes factors that are hard to capture purely in economic terms – such as the damage being done to long-held, precious cultural aspects of life.

Scotland is one of the first countries in the world to commit funds to address economic and non-economic loss and damage, and over the last few months some of that support been channeled, through Christian Aid’s local partner Action For Development, in ways that build the resilience of the community and attempt to address some of these huge challenges.

The community participated in a process to help identify the main climate change-related problems they face, and to prioritise and suggest their own solutions. Non-economic impacts of climate change were also identified, including traumatisation and depression. Women often bear the brunt of the challenges – for example girls can be married off young to enable their family to restock their animals.

Goat herding in Dasenech / Credit: Yared Araya

What has been achieved?

Reflecting the imperative to tackle Loss and Damage while being funded from the Humanitarian Emergency Fund, the action plan took an integrated approach in which vulnerable people were offered choices on how their urgent needs might be met. For example, there were activities that might be considered more ‘typical’ humanitarian responses, such as grants for new livelihoods (for example women’s fishing groups) and cash transfers to vulnerable households. But the project also embedded a range of activities aimed at addressing some of the non-economic impacts that were felt most deeply by the community.

For example, in light of the social and cultural status associated with herd ownership, over 1000 goats were provided to around 200 households, replenishing some of the animals lost in recent months, and a total of 158,198 livestock were vaccinated. Furthermore, reflecting the mental health impact felt by many in the community after recurring climate-related threats and shocks, 54 health and community leaders were trained in psycho-social support.

Flood water surrounds the public toilet block, making it inaccessible / Credit: Yared Araya

How and why does Christian Aid continue to advocate on climate change?

Dasenech is one of countless communities being impacted by extreme weather driven by climate change, in areas of the world which have contributed the very least to the crisis.

We have a responsibility to make sure that there’s decisive action to reduce emissions and also that we continue to direct ‘loss and damage’ funding to those whose homes, livelihoods and culture are being threatened, every day.

To find out more about what we can do about these global issues here in Scotland, take a look at our coalition partner Stop Climate Chaos Scotland’s manifesto for change.

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