The presently called United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Ethiopia (UN OCHA-Ethiopia) began life in November 1984 when the United Nations established the Office for Emergency Operations in Ethiopia (OEOE) to help coordinate the delivery of international famine relief to the drought affected highlands of the country. In October 1986, with the effects of the famine largely mitigated, the Secretary General decided to dismantle the OEOE and incorporate its key functions into the mandate of UNDP, thereby placing support for national disaster preparedness and prevention on a firmer footing. This led to the formation of the UN Emergency Prevention and Preparedness Group (UN-EPPG) in January 1987 as a project implemented by UNDP and reporting directly to the UN Secretary Generals’ Special Representative.
In the months following the change of Government in mid-1991 the EPPG played a crucial role in formulating a programme to assist the post-war recovery process and accelerate the reintegration of more than 350,000 ex-soldiers and fighters. It also helped prepare consolidated UN appeals for Ethiopia in addition to working with the then called UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA; now OCHA) in compiling a regular situation report on humanitarian needs in Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa on behalf of the donor community.
To bring its title into line with those of similar UN offices in other disaster prone countries, on 1 January 1994 the EPPG was renamed the UNDP Emergencies Unit for Ethiopia (UNDP-EUE). Although the project’s formal terms of reference were unchanged, its modus operandi had altered considerably since the change of government with a greater emphasis on supporting the humanitarian and inter-agency coordination responsibilities of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and less on management support for relief operations in the field. The change of name signified this change of emphasis and also heralded the beginning of a new, more constructive, relationship with the Government’s relief and rehabilitation commission (RRC; now DPPC = Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission).
Once again in 1999 the institutional role of the Emergencies Unit faced a change in orientation towards a UN Country Team Support Unit. Although the suggested name-change of the unit to 'Country Team Emergency Support Unit' has not taken place, the unit will be seen as 'UN' entity, rather than a UNDP organism because its over-riding 'mandate' is to provide substantial institutional support to the UN Country Team in Ethiopia.
The UN Country Team approach in Ethiopia permits joint humanitarian action that is coordinated and managed through the UN Disaster Management Team (UN-DMT), a committee comprising the heads of operational agencies and emergencies staff and chaired by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator. UN OCHA-Ethiopia functions as the secretariat for the UN-DMT, undertaking specific operational tasks which do not fall under the clear mandate of the specialised agencies, ensuring an adequate follow-up to any decisions or recommendations resulting from discussions and providing a linkage between the UN-DMT and government, donor and NGO counterparts.
With The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) since the beginning of 2001 now jointly sharing the financial support of the unit with UNDP, the Unit’s name was once again changed into UN OCHA-Ethiopia. OCHA now, as of 2003, provides the majority of financial support to the office.
There is always much demand for reliable background information, contextual reporting and data on the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia. Efficient information sharing and authoritative analysis are fundamental to its support to the UN Resident Co-ordinator. UN OCHA-Ethiopia produces a range of documents to meet these needs through a combination of regular situation reports, special studies, maps and other graphical materials, resource tracking reports and operational databases made available to the relief community primarily through a combination of hard copy and electronic mailing lists.
UN OCHA-Ethiopia is responsible for monitoring relief needs and providing humanitarian support services to the UN Country Team (UNCT) reporting directly to the Humanitarian Coordinator and through the Resident Coordinator to the Heads of UN-Agencies. It has existed under various names and guises for more than fifteen years, funded through contributions from a combination of UN and bilateral donors among which Switzerland through Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC) and Swiss Humanitarian Aid (SHA) has remained a major contributor for many years.
UN OCHA-Ethiopia works in support of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator to facilitate a coordinated, well-resourced and effective international relief response and the bridging of the transition from relief to recovery. Functionally, the work of the UN OCHA-Ethiopia breaks into four main areas: (1) coordination and operational support; (2) field monitoring and analysis; (3) information management and humanitarian reporting; and (4) research and evaluation.