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 Mother and newborn baby at Gambella camp, Ethiopia [ © Susanne Doettling/MSF]

MSF has worked in Ethiopia for almost 40 years, responding to different needs and emergencies countrywide, including acute watery diarrhoea, malaria, malnutrition, mass displacement of people, impacts of conflict, refugees’ health needs, and other health programmes to improve people’s access to healthcare.

In Ethiopia, we respond to the healthcare needs of both the host population and the growing number of refugees, returnees and displaced communities. We work in coordination with and in support to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health (MoH), and conduct independent evaluations to determine people’s needs. Our teams provide free and quality healthcare, always in in collaboration with health boards, water boards or other relevant authorities.

We respond where medical and humanitarian aid is needed most and treat everyone irrespective of race, sex, religion or political affiliation.

Where we worked (January 2020 to June 2021) 


Between January 2020 and June 2021, our teams assisted communities affected and displaced by natural or man-made disasters such as floods, drought and conflict in nine out of 10 regions in Ethiopia: Addis Ababa; Afar, Amhara; Benishangul-Gumuz; Gambella; Oromia; Somali; Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNP) and Tigray.

Activities ranged from providing primary and secondary healthcare to South Sudanese refugees in the camps of the Gambella region, to running mobile clinics in remote areas of the Somali region.

We supported the Regional Health Bureaus (RHBs) and Ethiopian Public Health Institute (EPHI) in their emergency surveillance activities, with the aim of covering most of the country, enabling our teams to investigate health alerts promptly.

We responded to flooding and disease outbreaks by providing medical care, safe drinking water and basic necessities in Afar and SNNPR regions. Our teams assisted people who were displaced by fighting in Benishangul-Gumuz, Amhara and SNNPR regions through primary health mobile clinics and improving access to clean water and sanitation for the communities in the area, as well as support for mass casualty incidents and infectious disease outbreaks in SNNPR.

In Addis Ababa we provide medical and mental health support to Ethiopian migrants deported from Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Lebanon. At the Addis Ababa airport arrival point we screen the medical condition of returnees and refer severe cases to area hospitals. Since October 2020, MSF has also been working in several transit shelters in Addis, where returning migrants are transferred for a few days before being sent onward to their home regions. MSF outreach teams visit these shelters regularly to provide medical and mental health care during their short stay.

Medical activities in 2020 in Ethiopia

Almost 1000 MSF staff and more than 500 incentive workers worked for MSF in 2020

Outpatient consultations: 79,600
Inpatient admissions: 6,630
Mental health consultations: 5,210
Women assisted in deliveries: 4,010

Checking on kala azar patients at the Abdurafi MSF health centre

Checking on kala azar patients at the Abdurafi MSF health centre  [© Susanne Doettling/MSF]

In January 2021, our teams opened an emergency medical programme to improve access to primary and secondary healthcare for people affected by violence in Metekel zone – Benishangul-Gumuz region – and for displaced families who fled to Chagni, Amhara region. The fighting in this area had forced more than 200,000 people out of their homes, according to United Nations (UN) data.

In Amhara region we treated people for neglected diseases like kala-azar and snakebite envenoming. We also have established effective research collaborations with the Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM), the ‘Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative’ (DNDi) and the University of Gondar. Over several years of collaboration, we have jointly carried out 10 kala-azar studies in the Amhara region. The impact of these studies has been substantial – resulting in policy changes, World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations and international research agendas.

MSF has been providing health services in Gambella for refugees in three refugee camps and for the host populations, in partnership with the Ethiopian government and the UNHCR. Until December 2020, MSF supported Gambella hospital, the only facility in the region with surgical capacity, and offering specialised medical care for a population of 800,000, half of them refugees from South Sudan. Our teams supported the emergency room, operating theatre, inpatient department and maternity unit and upgraded the hospital’s facilities.

We also provided medical care to people from the Sababuru woreda in Guji zone, in Oromia region, who have otherwise no access to secondary healthcare services.

Since November 2020, we have been providing medical care and other assistance in Tigray to cover basic health needs for the most vulnerable people affected by violence across the region. This includes running mobile clinics, rehabilitating and supporting primary and secondary level health facilities to ensure lifesaving services are available, and establishing alternative referral systems to restore access to healthcare. We supported five hospitals in collaboration with the Regional Health Bureau and ran mobile clinics in dozens of locations. Our teams donated emergency and essential medical supplies for people and provided water and sanitation support to sites for internally displaced people in communities where the water system had been damaged.

Our teams have taken measures to ensure continuous implementation of medical and humanitarian activities since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical Activities from January to June 2021

Outpatient consultations: 259,524
ER admissions: 1,056
Malnutrition treatments: 9,712
Antenatal consultations: 25,788
Malaria treatments: 1,944
Inpatient admissions: 2,645
Mental health consultations: 5,343
Women assisted in deliveries: 1,831
Vaccinations: 16,477
Snakebite and Kala azar treatments : 356

We continue to mourn the death of three of our colleagues – María Hernandez, Yohannes Halefom Reda, and Tedros Gebremariam – who were working in Tigray region, and who were brutally murdered on 24 June 2021. Following the murder, MSF called for an immediate investigation into the killings and demanded that aid workers be allowed to do their jobs in safety. In response to the killings, we announced the suspension of our activities in Abi Adi, Adigrat and Axum, in central and eastern Tigray.

In July 2021, we suspended all activities in the Amhara, Gambella and Somali regions of Ethiopia, as well as in the west/northwest of Tigray region, to comply with a three-month suspension order from the Ethiopian Agency for Civil Society Organizations (ACSO) on 30 July. Activities continued in other regions and zones where permitted.