Love in Action Ethiopia (LIAE) is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging community structures and systems in regions of the country where predominantly underserved and marginalized communities were already facing economic hardships and poor service delivery prior to the spread of the coronavirus.
Problems and Purpose
COVID-19 arrived at a delicate time in Ethiopia, disrupting the ongoing political reform process. The country was preparing itself to hold historic elections in August 2020 after over five years of political and economic turmoil. In this respect, the pandemic has already compromised the roles of governance, policy, and state accountability mechanisms and has become a source of conflict which is often used as political tool. Emergency decrees announced by the government have also been seen as suspicious, since some argue the government is using the pandemic for political oppression and as a mechanism to extend election schedules.
Secondly, the virus has exacerbated existing social and economic challenges in the country. Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, with youth representing 60% of the population and a median age of 19.5 years. Youth unemployment is also high (the urban unemployment rate is above 20%) and their livelihoods mostly depend on subsistence work in the informal sector. Thus, the state of emergency, followed by a lock-down, has deprived youth of their daily earnings, especially in urban areas where virus transmission is high. Moreover, livelihood supply chains are cut off and youth, children, and families have become vulnerable to hunger and health-related challenges.
These economic challenges have started to seed chaos, joblessness, organized robberies in many places, along with other anti-social activities. This pattern of damage is similar for other vulnerable groups in the country. More importantly, national trade is in sharp decline and the economy is highly damaged by a shortage of hard currency. Ethiopian Airlines, one of the biggest airlines in Africa and a main source of hard currency for the national economy, has halted almost all flights and is struggling to manage the internal financial crisis. As result of this, market prices are very high and basic goods like food, medicines, fertilizers, home supplies, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are extremely scarce and expensive.
Members of Love in Action Ethiopia (LIAE) have observed an increase in the number of people begging on the street as a result of the lock-down, including by people with well-kept appearances, families, and immigrants. This causes psycho-social effects including inferiority complexes, hopelessness, frustration, and loss of self-respect, dignity, and self-confidence. Also, living conditions, including housing, are highly conducive for viral transmission. Physical distancing is difficult for large families required to live 24/7 in small houses or in single rooms, and crowded inter-generational households often lack supplies like clean water and toilets.
Community awareness of measures and behaviors to promote health, as well as economic and social risks related to the virus has been low in most places, with people less concerned about protecting of themselves.
In response to the above, LIAE has changed the nature of its work to cover organizational assignments from home, while some ongoing projects still require staff to attend offices periodically. To address COVID-19, LIAE has planned five areas of intervention and allocated budgets from its reserve funds and from a few donors.
Background History and Context
For many decades, the four marginalized regional states of Ethiopia (commonly called ‘Emerging Regions or Areas’) have been under-served, vulnerable to socio-economic challenges, and home to socially marginalized communities. These regions and minority groups have been highly affected by pandemic-related measures, as they were already facing negative economic, education and health conditions and were more vulnerable to risks and impacts on livelihoods. Likewise, several high-risk groups have been disproportionately affected by the virus and other health issues, including street children, commercial sex workers, people living with HIV/AIDS, children and girls living in high-risk areas, and street laborers. In most cases, these high risk and minority groups have not been given proper attention by the government, despite needing special economic and social support.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
Love in Action Ethiopia (LIAE) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization in Ethiopia worked with the most vulnerable groups in Ethiopia to mobilize and empower them with minimal intervention .
During COVID-19, LIAE has continued paying salaries and benefits to all staff, even though most donors are putting funds on hold. The organization has also paid holiday allowances to its staff since market prices of basic items have risen because of COVID-19. As in all places in the country, staff who are on duty do not have all the protective equipment they require on hand. In some cases, LIAE staff continue to voluntarily assist in planning and field activities, though it is not obligatory for them to do so.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
LIAE is primarily comprised of paid staff members who interact with citizens through aid campaigns and participatory initiatives.
Methods and Tools Used
Love In Action Ethiopia (LIAE) uses a holistic approach called Integral Human Development (IHD) to help people reach their full potential and find solutions to their problems. To promote such transformative and sustainable change, it engages people at every level-individual, family, community, regional and national, and puts its resources into well-focused and unique programs in which it has a special analytical and organizational edge.
LIAE measures its success through real change on the ground, and its approach involves three essential steps: Research It, Change It, and Scale It. It starts with primary data to develop its projects, and its rigorous analysis identifies risks, unveils opportunities, informs smart strategies and provides recommendations. It tests projects with communities, and works with partners to deliver change on the ground. It holds itself accountable to ensure its outcomes will be bold and enduring. It does not think small and stop there. It continues engaging with partners and decision makers to elevate its impact.
LIAE believes that its approach will guide its work and ensures it has the maximum positive impact possible on the lives of the target beneficiaries.
Long & Short Term Strategies
Long Term Strategies
- To strengthen a team of supporters to the organization (members and supporters).
- To raise and capacitate future leadership and governance of the organization.
- To ensure consistent growth and focused revenue development and management.
- To scale up community engagement and collaboration strategies through the promotion of community based program interventions.
- To expand innovative and diversified program and development initiatives.
- Short Term Strategies
- To undertake project based fundraising efforts for the implementation of its major programs.
- To record and disseminate its ongoing and previous project impacts.
- To equip the organization with necessary materials including purchase of additional vehicle so as to reduce unnecessary and inflated rental expenses for travel.
- To secure land for office construction.
- To prepare strategic planning document for five years and implement.
Commitment to Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E)
LIAE continually monitors and evaluates its programs, adjusting its activities along the way to ensure the greatest positive impact. It has created a cutting edge platform that allows easier and more accurate data collection, better tools for decision making, and easier performance tracking across projects and regions.
LIAE also uses robust financial mechanisms to ensure accountability and transparency with its donors and the people it serves. In addition, LIAE uses participatory methods such as Community Committees and Community Outreach. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
To address COVID-19, LIAE has planned five areas of intervention and allocated budgets from its reserve funds and from a few donors. These include:
- providing safe, structured, and community-based education about the virus through mass media and mini-media, home-to-home awareness raising, and providing psycho-social support from volunteers, including connecting people with free government-led call centers;
- mobilizing health materials such as PPE, face masks, sanitizers, street-based hand-washing materials;
- addressing basic and immediate needs of the most at risk communities, including food, clothes and hygienic materials;
- strengthening systems and structures in local and regional government offices, and at community level (e.g., social gatherings, faith-based organizations, community-based traditional organizations) in designing strategies, plans, and follow-up mechanisms to fight the virus;
- building organizational capacity through online mentoring and training of staff and governance team on COVID-19 management.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
Through these interventions, in the short term LIAE plans to provide financial, food, and material support to over 100 street children in Addis Ababa and another 200 people from high-risk groups (street children, commercial sex workers, children) in Southern State. LIAE has also provided PPE in Gambella, one of the emerging regions and plan to scale up additional supports. LIAE reached more than 250,000 people through its awareness-raising campaigns across project sites. As a result, people are observed safely lined-up to wash their hands in public spaces and willing to use the PPE provided. Community members are also willing to work as volunteers to combat the viruses.
Besides the actions taken to strengthen government-led task forces, LIAE has established and empowered Community-Based COVID-19 Task Forces in all its project sites. The program is also assisted by the existing 1,200 volunteers (Community Resource Persons, or CRPs) working at the grassroots level. These volunteers, in collaboration with the local task forces, have:
- marked bus/taxi stations with ink to maintain physical distancing among bus users;
- agreed with informal social networks who organize funerals to properly implement all protection protocols, including reducing the number of funeral ceremony participants;
- worked with individuals and businesses to provide financial and material supports to targeted high-risk groups and have made free hand-washing material available in all their workplaces;
- worked with FM radio stations on the COVID-19 campaign.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Covid-19 presents emergent and all-around negative impacts on the community LIAE serves. Thus, LIAE strives to support the needs of communities and to find solutions to collective challenges. Alongside governments, NGOs like LIAE are also responsible for protecting the safety of the community and respecting laws and appeals made by the Ethiopian government and other international institutions. From this COVID-19 intervention process, it has been revealed that organizations like LIAE, in their scale of capacity, should have made timely or early preparations to effectively anticipate and respond to outbreaks, which have significant risks or impacts in the lives of their target communities. It was a wake-up call for future actions. Likewise, the pandemic also emphasized that existing project operations, community networks, and well-built relationships were being used as a strong platform and bridge to tackle challenges presented by the virus.
In LIAE's project areas, government leadership, faith-based organizations and community actors worked hand in hand unlike previous times. Even ‘hard-to-reach’ politicians are closely assisting the community needs and providing any disease specific information in synergized manners, which looks to be sustained after the crisis. In LIAE's project areas, some institutions participating in this specific effort have stated making ad-hoc discussions and dialogues to revisit their strategies for outbreak responses in regards to governance, accountability and citizen participation. All the strategies designed or reviewed by LIAE in collaboration with stakeholders have brought successful results even though the scale of the negative impact is far behind progress needed to effectively save lives, especially the economic dramas unfolding from the virus. 
 Love in Action Ethiopia. https://www.loveinactionethiopia.org/
 Love in Action Ethiopia. "Approach and Strategies." https://www.loveinactionethiopia.org/about/Approach%20and%20Strategy.html
 Aklilu Gebremichael. "Love in Action Ethiopia." https://www.loveinactionethiopia.org/News%20and%20Events/Refelction%20on%20COVID19%202020%20Pictures.pdf