Monday, 28 September 2009

International Aid Ethiopia

Ethiopia, Ethutopia, Utopia. Is aid working? - Images by Rafael Sanchez

After more than two months just before Summer arranging meetings with international and local Ngos working in Ethiopia and organising the logistics of my trip, I spent about three weeks in the Tigray area around Mekelle, Adigrat and Aksum and two weeks in Lalibela and the Omo Valley. The plan was to document different development projects to try to understand how international aid works in one of the poorest countries in the world, or rather if it is really working after thousands of millions of dollars invested during more than 50 years.
Today more than 80% of people in Ethiopia still live on less than US$2 a day. One in ten children die before their fifth birthday. Many children suffer from malnourishment and even in a good year, when the rains or crops don't fail, around 5 million people need help to get enough to eat. Of the country's 81 million people, half are under the age of 18. More children are now attending primary school, but numbers remain very low in the poorest areas of the country, and girls often don't go to school at all.
The extent and quality of healthcare provision is limited. As a result, children still die every day from preventable diseases such as malaria, and many women still die from complications during childbirth. Only 13% of the population have adequate
sanitation facilities and large numbers don't have access to safe drinking water.
International aid is a huge operation in Ethiopia, with lots of different interpretations depending of your point of view,complex situations and difficult answers.
The only way to explore in depth the subject of my final project was to try to capture the honest and intimate thoughts of aid workers and the beneficiaries of some representatives projects. With the help of International Ngos like Oxfam America and Ngos controlled by the government like Relief Society of Tigray, I was able to document schemes dealing with water sanitation, agriculture development and environment issues. Local Ngos like Operation Rescue and Addis Development Vision gave me the opportunity to visit hospitals and orphanages and understand how private enterprises like Fitsum Birhan Hospital are still absolutely necessary to fight poverty. Every person portrayed in the project is somehow interconnected and the different stories are layers of the same reality.
I have already started editing the different chapters of the story in separate galleries and I am planning to create a multimedia presentation/web documentary with images and audio recorded during interviews to show the narrative of the project in detail, and probably a small book to present in a less conventional way some of the main ideas and unanswered questions behind the project.