Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation of the Response to the Crisis in Northern Ethiopia

Schenkenberg, E.; Wendt, K.; Berhanu, D.; Bultosa, G; Gorgeu, R.; Hambye-Verbrugghen, V., Steets, J.
Publication language
Date published
03 Jun 2024
Access and Negotiation, Working in conflict setting, Coordination, Humanitarian Access, Needs assessment

Following the activation of the system-wide Scale-Up Protocols (an inter-agency mobilisation mechanism in response to a sudden onset and/or rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation) in April 2021, HERE has been contracted by OCHA on behalf of the Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation Steering Group to undertake the Inter-Agency Humanitarian Evaluation of the collective response to the crisis in Northern Ethiopia. 

The conflict in Northern Ethiopia saw extreme levels of violence against civilians and grave, systematic violations of international law, creating a context where the UN had very little room to respond effectively. The fact that humanitarians stayed and delivered is commendable. However, the quality and appropriateness of the limited aid that reached communities, particularly concerning gender-based violence responses, did not align with the actual scale and nature of needs. Food aid overshadowed other sectors, particularly protection. Public data on humanitarian needs lacked the necessary degree of independence.

Compounding these difficulties, there was no collective response underpinned by joint strategy and planning. Humanitarian principles did not underpin the response, and the UN failed to reframe its relationship with the Federal Government once it became a party to the conflict. The absence of consistency and coherence in the UN’s wide-ranging in-country agenda had a direct impact on the response’s leadership. Strong disagreements around how to address these issues led to deep divisions within the Humanitarian Country Team, rendering it dysfunctional. Agencies that fell behind their scaling up efforts/cluster lead responsibilities were not held accountable nor replaced.

In light of this system failure, the IAHE provides recommendations both specific to Ethiopia and aimed at the system as a whole. Any follow-up must take place at the global as well as the country level if meaningful change is to take place.