Regular, severe droughts affect Harrar and poverty levels are extremely high as a result. In 2011 the city made the world news with the worst drought in over a decade.
SOS Children have been in Harrar since 1980 and have been closely involved with the community through its highs and lows over the decades.
Difficult conditions in one of Islam's Holy Cities
One of the four Holy Cities of Islam alongside Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina, Harrar has a population of just over 150,000 and is situated between the central highlands and the Somali desert.
Infrastructure in the city is almost non-existent - paved roads, hospitals and schools are scarce. There is a very high infant mortality rate, and malnourishment among adults and children is the norm. Children of the city lack access to food, potable water and sanitation.
Children miss out on school
The worst drought in over a decade hit in 2011, and food prices shot up by almost 40%. Many thousands went over the edge into malnutrition and starvation as a result. The drought also affected children socially - as many as 50,000 dropped out of school. Now, 27,000 children in Harrar don't attend school or have access to medical facilities.
Due to climate change, rains are becoming unpredictable and over the last decade have become increasingly infrequent. Starvation is an occupational hazard for those living in and around the city. The regularity of droughts mean that authorities don't have the reserves in place, and delayed rainfall by even a few weeks can result in thousands going hungry.
How we help in Harrar
We set up the SOS Children's Village in Harrar in 1980 in response to a severe drought in the area. We have worked hard in the area to deal with the repeated natural disasters which impact everyone living in the city and surrounding region. With 6,000 children in the region growing up without parental support, Harrar is the Ethiopian region with the highest number of orphans.
There are several SOS families in our Children's Village. Here children who can no longer live under the care of their parents, are lovingly cared for by SOS Mothers. The Village also runs a school in the community which reaches up to 960 children throughout the local community, taking children up to secondary education.
Community outreach work supports local families
We offer a nursery, school, vocational training and for children who are unable to live with their parents, a family based care programme. In 2012 we set up a social centre in Harrar to work with families to stay together and protect their children. This offers a family strengthening programme, but also health counselling, community support and psychological support for people as things get tough. We offer families assistance in improving their incomes, and help them access medical support as necessary.
We run an SOS youth programme for young people in two youth houses. Here they live semi-independently while attending vocational training or higher education. Qualified youth counsellors guide them in their lifestyle choices as they move onto full independence.
Harrar is a historic city with a fascinating past. Today, Harrar's vulnerable children need your help. Sponsor a child, and ensure they grow up in a loving family home.