The SELAM EKISIL (SEEK) project implemented by Pact and Peace and Development Centre (PDC) among other local NGOs, has contributed to peace and stability during the current crises by quickly recognizing the negative economic impact of COVID-19.
In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency and introduced a dusk to dawn curfew. Due to these restrictions, several communities were deprived of their livelihoods. Communities were also uneasy, as security forces had been redirected to tackle the pandemic. In the cross-border region of South Omo, the situation was aggravated when the neighbouring counties of Turkana and Marsabit in Kenya recorded their first cases of COVID-19.
In response to this, the SEEK project started procuring masks and soaps produced by businesses in the community to boost the local economy. It also partnered with another EUTF-funded programme ( RESET II ), to manufacture masks and soaps for distribution within the communities, as well as with Woreda Administrations, to raise awareness of COVID-19 and cholera outbreaks. The project is distributing sanitary items, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hand washing containers to households, health facilities, and local markets.
Looking for local solutions
SEEK is engaging cooperatives and associations such as the Senbele and Umbele Soap Manufacturing Associations. It has already procured their whole stock of soap, and plans to continue buying off their products.
On this, Ato Palo Baje the soap manufacturers’ group leader, said: “We are happy that our soap can be used in fighting cholera and this new disease called COVID-19. We hope this will teach our community that we can solve our problems using local solutions. This soap is manufactured right here in Hamer and we can use it to clean our hands instead of buying it from rich companies in big cities. We have not seen this kind of innovation before, thanks to the SEEK project, and with this kind of support, our business will grow.”
SEEK is replicating these interventions in Turkana and Marsabit counties in Kenya and is expected to reach an estimated 500,000 people across the two countries. The project is cautious about the interplay between the spread of these diseases, economic devastation, conflict and insecurity. It is supporting local governments and communities with a merchandise kit that will be distributed across 42 Kebeles in Nyangatom, Dassenach and Hamer Woredas.
Mr. Wole Alma, Hamer Woreda Administrator, said: “For us, these interventions are not just about COVID-19. Since March, transportation has been crippled; hence we cannot get necessities like soap. Making and supplying soap locally is providing a long-term solution. Secondly our youth are engaged in meaningful employment as opposed to banditry and petty crime and more importantly the SEEK project is injecting much needed currency to our Woreda. That is why we will support this initiative, and we are also providing some of our vehicles to assist the SEEK project.”