Denan, Ethiopia

Denan is the birthplace of our organization. Located in the Ogaden region of remote southeastern Ethiopia, Denan is home to thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons. It is located not far from the border of Somalia and about 40 miles from Gode, the nearest town with electricity. The Ogaden is populated mostly by ethnic Somalis and has been devastated by drought, famine, and an armed separatist movement. Temperatures soar daily to well over 110° Fahrenheit creating some of the most unbearable living conditions in all of Africa.

Facts & Figures

Free, quality medical care provided to more than 415,000 people from 2004 through June 2022.

In 2015, our hospital was chosen by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Health Bureau of the Somali Regional State as the site for the creation of a 10-room operating theater complex.

Our center named the Outstanding Medical Facility in the Somali Regional State in 2012.

80 micro-loans have been awarded and every one has been repaid in full.

Emergency food relief sent in for 13,500 starving people during drought of 2015-2016, for 10,000 people in 2018-2019 and for 10,000 people in 2021-2022.

Medical Projects in Denan

When we first opened our medical facility in 2004, The Denan Project’s small clinic had a doctor and four volunteers. Since then, hard work by our volunteers, generous gifts from donors, and a bit of good luck have turned the clinic into a 34-room hospital, fully staffed with an exceptionally dedicated team of nearly 40 people who run the hospital and its related operations, including a pharmacy, ultrasound equipment, maternity and TB wards, a laboratory capable of carrying out a battery of sophisticated tests and a medical outreach program to bring medical care to distant villages. We also provide ambulance services to outlying areas, picking up patients for emergency calls and, when necessary, take patients to a larger hospital 40 miles away. Our hospital offers programs in vaccination, prenatal and well baby care, polio eradication, supplemental and emergency feeding, and inpatient and outpatient T.B. treatment. We also support a program funded by an outside organization to eradicate female genital mutilation. In 2012, our center was named the Outstanding Medical Facility in the Somali Regional State by the Ethiopian government.  And in 2015, our hospital was chosen by the Federal Ministry of Health and the Health Bureau of the Somali Regional State as the site for the creation of a 10-room operating theater complex. When completed, this will allow us to offer a wider range of services to our patients, and will eliminate the need to take patients to a larger hospital for more complicated procedures. Addressing the needs of the community, we also run many programs to promote overall health, including education courses on sanitation, HIV/AIDS, breast feeding, waterborne diseases, the importance of giving birth in a hospital rather than at home, the proper use of medicines, and anti-malaria measures. As of September 2022, the Denan Hospital has treated more than 400,000 people for a wide range of illnesses and injuries. The care is all for free, and has saved many lives.

Donations and Transparency in Giving
Water Projects in Denan

Water Projects in Denan

Drought has been a recurring problem in the Ogaden region. There are two “rainy seasons” each year, one from late September through late November, the other from April through mid-June. Unfortunately, the rains frequently do not come when they are supposed to, and often do not come at all. To help alleviate the effects of drought, and to enable people to stay in their own homes rather than being obliged to move to a faraway camp for internally displaced persons, The Denan Project built watering stations and two reservoirs in Denan and surrounding villages and purchased a water tanker truck capable of holding 20,000 liters to service those reservoirs. During the drought seasons of 2008, 2011, 2016, 2017 and 2021-2022, more than 30,000 people each year relied on our tanker to deliver potable water to Denan and surrounding villages. The tanker became an indispensable resource, often serving as the only source of free potable water for the area during the worst of the dry seasons and times of drought. Due to the joint efforts of our own organization, our local partner OWDA, and the Ethiopian government, in February, 2018 the town of Denan began to receive running water for the very first time. This important development means that women and children no longer have to spend hours each day fetching water, and will improve the health of the community in a variety of ways.

Food & Agriculture Projects in Denan

Plumpy’Nut Food Supplement Program

There is a high degree of malnutrition and anemia in the Denan region, particularly among children and women. We have provided tens of thousands of supplemental meals of Plumpy’Nut to combat this problem. Often referred to as a “miracle food”, Plumpy’Nut is formulated for African tastes with a peanut base and is fortified with milk, minerals, and vitamins. Each packet contains 500 calories; the “miracle food’s” effect on nutritional health is almost immediate.

Tractor and Plowing Implements

In 2008, The Denan Project bought a tractor and plowing implements to use in the greater Denan area. We sent a local driver and assistant to the capital, Addis Ababa, to receive training in the tractor’s operation and maintenance. Prior to this, even though the people had animals, all plowing was done by hand.

Agricultural Training

Five representative villagers from Denan and each of the surrounding villages were sent in 2007 to the district capital of Gode to receive five days of training in new agricultural techniques and in the use of new, drought-resistant seeds. With the training and the use of the tractor, crop yield has almost doubled on a per-plot basis.

Food Agriculture Projects in Denan
Ethiopia Partners DSC 0103
Education Projects in Denan

Education Projects in Denan

Upgrading the Elementary School

Previously, the primary school in Denan was below government standards for education. Classroom sizes sometimes exceeded 80 or 90 children. Most students had no books, desks, or curriculum. Some of the teachers teaching the 5th grade had the equivalent of only an 8th-grade education. To help alleviate the problem of large classes, The Denan Project hired two new, qualified elementary-school teachers at the additional cost of $350 each per month. We also paid travel and tuition for 10 teachers to receive updated training at the Ministry of Education, more than 435 miles (700 kilometers) away. In years past, kids who finished the 8th grade had no way to further their schooling. In 2012, thanks in part to our efforts, a new high school was built in Denan for the first time. This is just a beginning. Without education, nothing will change. The children are Denan’s hope for the future. Here is a look at The Denan Project’s education goals:

  • Hire qualified primary and high school teachers every year, at a cost of $4,200 per year for each teacher.
  • Raise enough money to buy desks and necessary school equipment, including computers in the primary and high schools.
  • Provide one hot meal a day for all students.
  • Provide financial assistance to send the most promising, needy high school graduates on to college.


Program Combating Female Genital Mutilation

Female genital mutilation was commonly practiced in the Denan area on young girls, usually around the age of nine. Local women who were not trained in any medical procedures carried out the practice with no anesthetic, under unsanitary conditions, using razor blades or scissors. The young girls were often stitched up with thorns, and complications frequently resulted. We support a program funded by an outside organization to put a halt to this custom. Medical personnel as well as local religious figures are used to point out that it is a cultural rather than religious practice that has evolved over time and that it is dangerous to the young girls’ health. Just as many men as women have attended the classes, and the result has been a reduction of almost 80% in this practice in the greater Denan area. Today, when the Elders hear of those committing this practice, they chase the offenders into the bush.  

Economic Development in Denan

Over the past five years, we have given 34 micro-loans to groups – and every single one has been repaid in full. Most of the loans were initially given for shoat-raising (sheep and goat) projects, in which the animals are purchased at a young age, fattened up, and sold for a profit. More recently the loans have supported the import and export of textiles and other household goods. Some of the groups have even started giving loans to individual members of their own group. The positive impact of our micro-loan program is evident in Denan’s improved local economy, and the changes in the community are remarkable. The local market has been refurbished and expanded, and now sells a larger variety of food and products. A new hotel has also been built in Denan, and the town now has several taxi services. One micro-loan group began its fourth successful loan by importing perfumes and cosmetics for sale to the local populace — luxury products that are only affordable because of improved overall prosperity. The photos below, for example, show the local village houses when we first arrived, and then again about 11 years later. The use of tin to replace straw thatch roofs in many of the homes is just one illustration pointing to an improved standard of living.

Economic Development in Denan
denan project before


denan project after


Our Partners in Denan

Our Partners in Denan

Organization for Welfare and Development in Action (OWDA)

OWDA is an Ethiopian registered NGO working to improve the lives of the people of the Ogaden region in the Somali Regional State in southeastern Ethiopia. On the ground in Denan, our partner OWDA manages the operation of the hospital and all our other projects, including procurement of supplies, management of local staff, and communications between the local communities and Denan Project board members. OWDA’s Chairman of the Board, Mukhtar Shek Omer, and Project Manager, Mohamed Abdulkadir, are the key contacts for all our activities in Denan.

Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Connecticut, USA

Early supporters of The Denan Project were the students, faculty, and staff of our local Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Connecticut. A contest sponsored by The Denan Project involving art students at the school created our organization’s logo, an integral part of our identity that we use in all our projects around the world. Since 2004, activities at the school, including concerts, silent auctions, tag sales, bake sales, and student “garage band” competitions, have raised more than $16,000 for The Denan Project.

The Pingry School, Bernardsville, New Jersey

Beginning a partnership with The Denan Project during their freshman year of high school, three members of the Class of 2019 at the Pingry School, Miroslav Bergam, Ethan Malzberg, and Ketaki Tavan, have engaged in multiple different administrative and fundraising projects to deepen the connection between themselves, their school, and the charity. Their efforts led to the founding of The Denan Project Club at Pingry. With a volunteer from The Denan Project, Rosemary Pfreundschuh, acting as a group mentor, and with the help of club members, the three club leaders have created and hosted an annual charity night, the Walk for Denan, and an annual pizza sale, garnering hundreds of attendees. They have registered the charity with Google for Nonprofits, allowing them to create an advertising program to promote TDP, as well as raised awareness through launching and running TDP’s instagram page. Since 2015, their efforts have resulted in over $30,000 raised and hundreds of likes and views on their advertisements and Instagram efforts. The group also became the first students at their school to create a Global Programs Trip, which will give attendees the opportunity to visit TDP’s site in Uratari, Peru in June of 2018 to learn about sustainable charity work through The Denan Project’s programs.

Local Government Agencies

There are many national, regional, and district government agencies that The Denan Project has worked with over the past several years who have been instrumental in our success, including:

  • The Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Nations
  • The Ethiopian Minister of Culture and Tourism
  • The Director of the Ministry of Agriculture
  • The President of The Somali Regional State
  • The Director of the Health Bureau, Somali Regional State
  • The Director of the Water Bureau, Somali Regional State
  • The District Administrator of the Denan District, Somali Regional State
  • The Ethiopian Ministry of Health

The Denan Committee of Elders

While there is a local administration appointed by the government, the real power belongs to The Elders, a group of the most respected people in the community. The Denan Project works hand in hand with The Elders, always asking their opinion and advice before undertaking a project. They tell us that we are the first people who ever asked them what they need rather than telling them what they need. They have also told us that in the past many people came and promised them all kinds of things – but that The Denan Project and our partner OWDA are the only ones who have always kept their promises. Our partnership with The Elders has been crucial to our long-running success in Denan.