Ethiopia is one of the fastest-growing non-oil economies in Africa. Although agriculture still accounts for about 45% of the gross domestic product and 85% of the labour force, Ethiopia is heavily dependent on food aid.

Bordering six countries in a region marked by conflict and by environmental disaster, Ethiopia welcomes many people seeking refuge; indeed, the past three years have seen almost a three-fold increase in the number of refugees in the country. The majority are from Somalia but there are also large numbers from Sudan and Eritrea too. In 2011, huge numbers of refugees came to flee violence and famine in southern Somalia and new camps were opened in the southeast, around Dollo Ado, to accommodate them. The vast majority of these new arrivals were women and children in extremely poor health.

The Jesuit Refugee Service set up projects in one of the camps in Dollo Ado in mid-2011, expanding its presence in Ethiopia, where it also serves urban refugees in Addis Ababa and Eritreans in Mai-Aini camp in northern Ethiopia.