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Volume 10, No. 1SPRING 2007

Ethiopia: Key to Africa
An Interview with IOCC’s New Head of Office, Thomas Kivlan

Shumea grows sugarcane and sells it to wholesalers for a modest profit. He is pictured here with Solomon Hailu (left) of the HIV/AIDS Unit of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Thomas Kivlan (right) Head of Office for IOCC Ethiopia. With the $80 of start up capital provided by IOCC, Shumea, who was diagnosed with HIV, was able to purchase some farmland. With additional money he earned as a night watchman, he was able to purchase seeds and cultivating tools. Through its partnership with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, IOCC has assisted over 8,000 Ethiopians who are living with HIV/AIDS.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIAIOCC recently reported to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that nearly 7 million Ethiopians have received training in HIV/AIDS prevention through IOCC’s program in partnership with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. A country with a rich Christian heritage, Ethiopia has struggled on several fronts, battling not just HIV/AIDS but drought, war, and famine as well. IOCC began operations in Ethiopia in 2001 through a partnership with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Programs for the development of clean water sources and improved agricultural techniques helped rural communities overcome the effects of poverty and drought. In 2004, IOCC launched a comprehensive AIDS awareness and training program with funding from USAID. Along with prevention and awareness training, children orphaned by HIV/AIDS and adults who are living with the disease are also assisted by IOCC through one-time start-up capital for small businesses. IOCC’s new Head of Office for Ethiopia Thomas Kivlan has had a 24-year career in humanitarian aid and development work, including stints in Afghanistan, the Congo, Honduras, El Salvador, Egypt, Morocco, Iraq and Georgia, where he opened IOCC's office in 1994. Kivlan talks about Ethiopia’s significance to Africa and the difference IOCC’s HIV/AIDS prevention program is making.

N&N: What is Ethiopia’s significance regionally and for the continent?

KIVLAN: Ethiopia is a sensitive country politically, economically, and from a humanitarian standpoint. It has always been a high profile country because of the global stature of the late Emperor Haile Selassie, and the notorious reputation of the Marxist regime which overthrew the emperor and ruled the country with an iron hand from 1974 to 1991. Ethiopia is also sensitive since it is a nation of chronic food instability. There have been five major famines in the last three decades.

A Small Shop and A Lot of Dignity
Though she had contracted the AIDS virus, Sufan was determined to become self-supporting. Through IOCC, Sufan, and eight other women with AIDS, received $340 to open a convenience store in the rural town of Assela. Since then, four of the original nine women have died, but Sufan and the remaining four have kept on with their business, which provides Sufan with an income of about $35 per week — a substantial sum for rural Ethiopia. Through IOCC’s partnership with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and its humanitarian arm, DICAC (Development and Inter Church Aid Commission), 5,500 Ethiopian clergy have been trained in conducting HIV/AIDS prevention workshops. Photo: Thomas Kivlan / IOCC

N&N: What strengths can IOCC offer Ethiopia?

KIVLAN: In Ethiopia, IOCC is lean and mean and efficient. It was the same story when I worked for IOCC in Georgia, when that country was trying to revive itself after decades of repression under communism. We have a focused and succinct mission and we execute that mission very effectively.

N&N: How does Ethiopia compare with other African nations that are dealing with the HIV/AIDS pandemic?

KIVLAN: Other African countries have been hit harder and have a higher infection rate; places like Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa. However, Ethiopia is important because it has a population of over 75 million people, so it is absolutely critical that we control the rate of infection in a country with such a large population. Ethiopia is important as a large Orthodox nation. IOCC’s partnership with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church allows us to harness the power of a 35 million person constituency.

N&N: HIV was first diagnosed in Ethiopia in 1984. Are there any indications that programs for prevention are making an impact?

KIVLAN: We are starting to see some significant results. In 2004, the infection rate was 4.4% and now it is down to 1.4%, which is encouraging when you compare it to other African countries. Also, for a country as traditional as Ethiopia, we have seen the incidence of stigma and shame decrease. On World AIDS Day, the Patriarch gave the keynote address and was followed by several individuals living with HIV who stood up and spoke in the most beautiful and moving terms on how their lives had been transformed, not only through abstinence and faithfulness, but through the antiretroviral drug therapy. They spoke of having the strength and energy to return to active life and to work again. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is in the vanguard of promoting dynamics of this kind. This, however, should not be construed to mean that the battle is won. It merely indicates that progress is being made and we are moving in the right direction.

Bicycles and a Brighter Future
Tariku is a 17 year old orphan who lost both parents to HIV/AIDS. In 2004, he joined IOCC’s program to support Ethiopia’s orphans and was given monthly support for his food, clothing, and medical expenses. In 2005, IOCC’s program shifted to more sustainable support and Tariku received money to start his own business. Tariku purchased a bicycle and began renting it to others. In less than six months he saved enough money to purchase three bicycles, which has doubled his income. Since 2005, 14,000 Ethiopian orphans have been assisted through IOCC’s partnership with DICAC. Photo: Ken Baker / IOCC

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