- Eritrea is ranked 165 of 182 on the Human Development Index. The infant mortality rate is 124 per 1,000 live births (2006). And 53% of the population is in extreme poverty.
- Eritrea is vulnerable to variable weather conditions and recurrent droughts. Eighty percent of the population is depending on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism for livelihood.
- The situation has been exacerbated by the state of “no-peace-no-war” with neighbouring Ethiopia, resulting in economic stagnation, as resources are prioritized for national defense.
- The country faces multiple challenges in promoting sustainable socio-economic development; restoring economic stability; ensuring food security; and mobilizing requisite resources.
- Limited access to up-to-date information on the general situation in the country remains a major constraint to planning assistance programmes.
OCHA faces the following coordination challenges in Eritrea:
- Lack of strategic coordination/engagement with government: since the discontinuation of the CAP in 2006, there has not been any common strategy between government and partners. At the operational level, UN agencies and NGOs cooperate with government partners on a bilateral basis instead.
- Reduced number of actors providing assistance/ government absorption capacity: there are only six international NGOs and two local ones left in Eritrea. All activities are implemented through government structures, though there are limitations to capacity. In addition, the few NGOs left are not permitted to be implementing partners for UN agencies.
- Access restrictions/lack of inter-agency assessments: application for travel outside Asmara, the capital, for international staff requires at least ten days. Since these measures were introduced in 2006, there have not been any inter-agency assessments.
- Diesel embargo on UNCT: NGOs, UN agencies and ICRC have not been supplied with diesel since December 2007. Many have resorted to purchasing petrol engine vehicles, which are expensive to maintain.
- Most activities are implemented with funding from agency internal sources. The UNCT has benefited from approx $13.8 million in CERF grants.
OCHA engagement in Eritrea is based on the following expertise:
- Given that the Horn of Africa is prone to drought, the OCHA presence ensures that the needs of the most vulnerable people remain on the agenda of the assistance community. And visiting senior personnel are adequately briefed to ensure their continued support to and advocacy for the activities of partners.
- OCHA provides vital support to the RC/HC advocacy agenda aimed at furthering dialogue.
- OCHA is currently supporting the country team in developing a resource mobilization framework to be shared with donors at the regional and headquarter levels.
- OCHA supports the coordination and development/ updating of inter-agency contingency plans, and ensures that the country continues to benefit from available CERF resources.
- OCHA continues to support the country team as the only forum that brings together donors, NGOs and UN agencies to deliberate on issues of mutual concern, and share information.
In 2010, OCHA engagement will entail the following plan of action:
- Work with the RC/HC and headquarters to advocate for increased access.
- Development of a work plan with the authorities and partners that could be incorporated into the UNDAF framework.
- Ensure that partners in the region are kept abreast of the situation and the operating environment in Eritrea. In the last two years, OCHA Eritrea has considerably scaled down its presence to one international and four national staff. However, given the unpredictable situation in the Horn of Africa, OCHA ROSEA and headquarters stand ready to provide surge capacity in the event of a deterioration of the situation.