Investing in local businesses to maintain peace and security during Covid-19

June 25, 2020

Recognizing the negative economic impact of Covid-19 on livelihoods, Pact is procuring masks and soap produced by businesses in the community to boost the local economy in South Omo, Ethiopia. Through the SELAM EKISIL (SEEK) program, we are engaging cooperatives and associations that were established through the RESET II project to manufacture masks and soap for distribution within the communities. Among these are the Senbele and Umbele Soap Manufacturing Associations, where Peace and Development Centre (PDC) has already procured their whole stock of soap, with a plan to procure more as it is produced on a continuous basis. SEEK is replicating these interventions in Turkana and Marsabit counties in Kenya and is expected to reach an estimated 500,000 people across the two countries.

Funded by the European Union Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), the SEEK program implemented by Pact and PDC among other local NGOs is supporting communities in South Omo zone, Ethiopia to manage the Covid-19 and a cholera outbreaks. Using peacebuilding networks of the project’s boundary partners, and collaborating with the EU funded Resilience Building and Creation of Economic Opportunities in Ethiopia project (RESET II) and Woreda Administrations, SEEK is raising awareness of Covid-19 and cholera as well as distributing sanitary items, personal protective equipment (PPE), and hand washing containers to households, health facilities, and local markets.

SEEK is cautious about the interplay between the spread of these diseases and economic devastation and how they link to conflicts and insecurity in the border areas. The program is therefore supporting cross-border local government and communities with a merchandise kit that will be distributed across 42 Kabeles in Nyangatom, Dassenach and Hamer Woredas.

PDC assists Palo Baje in packing soap.

Responding to SEEK’s decision to purchase the soap, Ato Palo Baje the soap manufacturers’ group leader said, "We are happy that our soap can be used in fighting cholera and this new disease called Covid. We hope this will teach our community that we can solve our problems using local solutions. This soap is manufactured right here in Hamer and we can use it to clean our hands instead of buying it from other rich companies in big cities. We have not seen this kind of innovation before, thanks to the SEEK project, and with this kind of support, our business will grow.”

In an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency and instituted a dusk to dawn curfew. These restrictions combined with the redirection of state resources – including security – to manage the effect of the pandemic has resulted in communities being deprived of their livelihoods. The situation was aggravated when the neighboring counties of Turkana and Marsabit in Kenya had recorded their first cases of Covid-19. Communities were uneasy that insecurity would escalate due to the void left by the government. Crucially, the area has largely remained peaceful, helped by the efforts of our boundary partners in managing conflict in the cross-border areas.