Increased tensions related to the impasse on the demarcation of the border with Ethiopia showed no signs of resolution in 2005. In addition, recurrent drought conditions and the continued deterioration of the economy perpetuated chronic food insecurity and further weakened the coping capacities of the population. Thousands of IDPs and refugees remained in makeshift camps or with host communities.
From September, general food distributions were suspended for all categories of beneficiary except 72,000 IDPs, in line with government policy, pending the results of assessments to identify those to receive food for work or food aid. The working environment remained difficult, with operational challenges such as the regulation of NGOs and termination of some of their activities, the taxation of relief items, prohibition of UN Agencies channelling funds and projects through NGOs, impounding of UN vehicles and seizure of UN warehouses In late 2005, the government declined to carry-out a Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) and the annual joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Assessment, deciding, in line with its self-reliance policy, to conduct its own harvest assessment.
. Raise awareness of the humanitarian situation in Eritrea within the international community
. Strengthen humanitarian coordination mechanisms
. Monitor the humanitarian situation effectively and disseminate humanitarian information widely
. Advocate for basic social services for IDPs, expellees, returnees and refugees
. Mobilise resources for the projects in the CAP 2005
. Ensure efficient and coordinated delivery of humanitarian assistance to vulnerable groups
. Strengthen the capacity of local partners
In cooperation with UN Agencies, NGOs, donors and the government, OCHA ensured the collection and dissemination of relevant and up to date information on the humanitarian situation through joint field trips and information sharing. OCHA field teams conducted monitoring trips every two weeks for the first six months. Information collected was used in the monthly Humanitarian Update, in maps and other targeted documents for awareness and advocacy. These products were posted on ReliefWeb and distributed to humanitarian partners and donors. After the proclamation regulating NGOs, the frequency of monitoring trips diminished before they finally ceased in September. After that, the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare did not issue the travel permits required to carry out assessments and monitoring missions.
The office published monthly humanitarian updates, regular and targeted reports to headquarters, and one donor update. OCHA also facilitated field trips for journalists as part of its effort to improve humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations. A WWW database established by OCHA proved very effective in providing partners with regular updates on humanitarian activities. This was well received by all stakeholders, including government counterparts, as it offered an overview of projects throughout the country. The office also continued to produce various humanitarian maps for use by partners and the media.
OCHA facilitated regular sectoral working groups meetings to coordinate humanitarian response among UN Agencies, NGOs, the Eritrean Relief and Refugee Commission (ERREC) and line ministries. The government's proclamation regulating NGOs and the subsequent restructuring of ERREC under the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare put these fora on hold.
In the absence of a Consolidated Appeal for 2006, OCHA engaged the UN Country Team, NGO partners and donors in preparing a Common Humanitarian Action Plan that outlined a joint strategy to address critical humanitarian needs in the country. In response to increasing tensions on the border demarcation issue and persistent drought, OCHA also reactivated the Contingency Planning and Preparedness Working Group. The Contingency Plan was updated regularly in light of political and humanitarian developments, albeit with no government participation.
OCHA continued to update the humanitarian community with information and figures on the situation of IDPs. Despite the operational challenges, the humanitarian community advocated with relevant authorities in favour of IDPs and returnees.
Heightened awareness on humanitarian issues and the needs of vulnerable populations was achieved through the publication of periodic updates and information documents, humanitarian maps and press statements. CAP funding increased significantly in spring 2005 after publication of reports and media statements, and slowed down following the proclamation on NGOs, suspension of food distributions, operational constraints and subsequent decrease in advocacy and fund mobilisation efforts.
Efforts to strengthen humanitarian coordination mechanisms were hindered by the restructuring and transfer of the ERREC to the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare (MoLHW). This resulted in the suspension of all humanitarian coordination fora with the government. In late 2005, OCHA re-established general and sectoral coordination mechanisms, re-engaged UN Agencies and NGO partners in developing a Common Humanitarian Action Plan, and reactivated contingency planning and preparedness working groups. The lack of a dedicated government counterpart to liaise and coordinate with the UN on humanitarian response continued to be a major challenge.
OCHA organised two donor briefings, in January and May. In June 2005, the MoLHW postponed the meeting and finally expressed its disapproval of such a forum. The meetings have since been suspended. A joint government-UN donor update was published in the first quarter of the year. A second update was submitted to the MoLHW but was not endorsed.
The 2005 CAP, coordinated by OCHA, was 64 percent funded (compared to a target of at least 70 percent at the start of the year), with food aid representing 80 percent of total commitments. Approximately US $100 million was mobilised out of US$ 156 million required. The poor donor response could be partly attributed to the government's suspension of food distributions in September, despite the availability of stocks in-country. The CAP Mid-Year Review was successfully conducted, together with partners, and launched in New York at the end of June 2005. OCHA contributed to the return and rehabilitation of IDPs by providing baseline data on IDPs and returnees. The return and reintegration programme conducted by UNDP, together with supporting agencies and the government, resettled 19,000 IDPs to their places of origin and surrounding areas. The humanitarian and rehabilitation/recovery needs of IDPs were met according to the minimum humanitarian standard requirements and guiding principles of IDPs.
OCHA national staff participated in various training courses that improved their skills and competences in emergency field coordination, HIV/AIDS, project management, leadership and team building, results-based management, report writing and French language. The transfer of ERREC to the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare prevented capacity building of the Information Coordination Centre (ICC), including in GIS, as planned for 2005.