Mission Trip #1 (Alpha) – January 2007
Pre Can-Go Afar Foundation Formation
Warren Creates & Ahmed Youssouf Mohamed
To take part in the 2nd Annual Afar Development Conference, to perform a needs assessment of the Afar situation in Ethiopia, and to determine how to best deliver poverty relief and humanitarian aid.
The situation in the Afar Region of Ethiopia presents many challenges including:
- Security – food, water, transport, information, health.
- Logistics – coordinating an effective flow of information and support between all groups involved.
- Infrastructure – local infrastructure is primitive and undeveloped.
- Culture – the Western World view is much different than that of the Afar People. It is important to practice ‘Do No Harm’ principles.
- Time constraints – limited time in each community .
While taking part in the Afar Development Conference, we were able to develop relationships with regional state government representatives of the Afar People, the Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA) as well as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Program (WFP) who are working to meet the needs of the Afar People. As a result of these meetings several pressing issues were identified. The refugee flow from Eritrea is causing increasing strain as resources in Ethiopia are already scarce. Secondly, the Afar are a nomadic people making it difficult to establish dedicated locations to deliver assistance and aid. Food security is a primary concern as many people are malnourished due to draught. Health care delivery is similar to the worst regions of sub-Saharan Africa. Delivery of education is challenging and illiteracy rates are high with an estimated 94% of Afar being illiterate. As the Region is one of the hottest and driest locations on earth, fresh water is difficult to secure. Many Afar die as a result of dehydration or illness caused by contaminated water. Finally, women are charged with looking after both their children and households while trying to take care of themselves, usually to the detriment of their own health. This, in concert with cultural practices such as FGM, makes the situation for female Afar particularly difficult.
As a result of this inaugural mission trip we were successful in validating our involvement in the Region. We began to understand how dire the situation was and how we could become involved to try to help make things better. We were then able to start building awareness and support for what we believed was an important cause. On return to Canada, we were successful in both building awareness and delivering our first projects. We sent one full container of medical equipment courtesy of a donation by David Smith, and we generated enough donations to provide food relief for 1,000 refugees for 1 month.