Relief and Rehabilitation Commission

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"By 1985, the RRC was the largest relief institution of its kind in Africa, with over 17,000 field workers, a fleet of trucks and offices and warehouses throughout government-controlled areas. Through this network it distributed a massive amount of relief assistance. Some in the government felt that the RRC (and its successors, for that matter) was institutionalising a humiliating and permanent dependency on foreign aid, and believed that its relations with INGOs were excessively liberal. Meanwhile, although the RRC – widely recognised as a model for other developing countries – retained its autonomy and capacity, donors increasingly channelled resources through INGOs...

"The imbalance in power and resources between the government and aid agencies was reflected in attitudes towards the media, which many (in the government and in Ethiopian society more widely) felt portrayed the country unfairly. The narrative of Ethiopian famines returning every ten years, only for the country to be ‘salvaged’ by international aid, began with the 1983–85 crisis. The international media paid little attention to Ethiopian efforts to raise funds for famine response, insinuating instead that neither the government nor the Ethiopian people had done enough to prevent the recurrence of famine ten years after the Sahelian crisis of the 1970s. The portrayal of Ethiopians as heartless and uncaring inhabitants of a country of emaciated children, with no history, culture or dignity, was galling in the extreme. The unintended irony of Band Aid’s song ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ was not lost on a people who followed one of the world’s oldest forms of Christianity. The simplified construct – bad government, helpless people, gallant humanitarians – angered many. Local concerns over media depictions of the famine and the role of INGOs in generating these depictions was not directed against INGO services in themselves, but rather against the media road shows that served these organisations’ budgets. Echoing the sentiments of many in Ethiopia, Mesfin Wolde-Mariam, a leading Ethiopian academic and human rights activist and one of the earliest writers on the history of famine in Ethiopia, asserted in 1988: ‘We must pledge as a people never again to use the skeletal bodies of famine victims to elicit charity from Europe and America’."" [1]

References and further reading

  • Donald Donham, Marxist Modern: An Ethnographic History of the Ethiopian Revolution (Oxford: James Currey Press, 1999).
  • DPPC, General Guidelines for the Implementation of the National Policy on Disaster Prevention and management (NPDPM) (Addis Ababa: Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission, 1995).
  • Kurt Jansson, ‘Section 1: The Emergency Relief Operation – An Inside View’, in Kurt Jansson, Michael Harris and Angela Penrose (eds), The Ethiopian Famine: The Story of the Emergency Relief Operation (London: Zed Books, 1987).
  • Mark Duffield and John Predergast, Without Troops and Tanks: Humanitarian Intervention in Ethiopia and Eritrea (Lawrenceville, GA: Red Sea Press, 2004).
  • RRC, The Challenges of Drought: Ethiopia’s Decade of Struggle in Relief and Rehabilitation (London: H&L Communications Ltd., 1985).
  • Dessalegn Rahmato, ‘Civil Society Organisations in Ethiopia’, in Bahru Zewdu and Siegfried Pausewang (eds), Ethiopia, the Challenge of Democracy from Below (Addis Ababa: Forum for Social Studies, 2002).
  • S. Villumstad and B. Hendrie, ‘New Policy Directions in Disaster Preparedness and Response in Ethiopia’, Disasters, 17(2), 1993.
  • Dawit Wolde-Giorgis, Red Tears: War, Famine, and Revolution in Ethiopia (Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 1999).

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch


  1. Humanitarian governance in Ethiopia, ODI, accessed July 19, 2010.