CNEWA Canada

Ethiopia – from apathy to empathy

Ethiopians, especially poor families in the war-devastated parts of the northern Tigray region, have been experiencing immense suffering from a conflict that remains largely unknown to Canadians. War started in the Tigray region in November 2020 between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Tigray Defence Forces, and the conflict continues to this day.

A complete communications blackout in the region has resulted in a lack of updates from the ground. Because of the continued war, telephone and internet accesses are cut off, and even electricity, transportation and banking services, making life very difficult for those living in Tigray.

The suffering of the poor throughout the entire country has also gotten worse due to the war in Ukraine, causing an increase in prices (petrol jumped by 30 percent, diesel went up 40 percent and food by 42.9 percent since July 6, 2022). Unfortunately, countries like Ethiopia that already experience food scarcity are hit even harder by inflation. Poverty and hunger are rising among families all across the country.

As the regional director for Ethiopia at CNEWA, an international humanitarian and charitable organization that helps minority Eastern Catholic-Christians live and minister in their ancestral homelands in North Africa, India and the Middle and Near East, I can tell you that people here yearn for our help, but resources are terribly lacking. In recent months, thankfully, some humanitarian organizations have been given access to deliver aid into Tigray. 

However, most of the aid distribution since November 2020 has been blocked or has not been nearly enough to meet the need. Another challenge is reaching the remote villages that have the greatest need and bringing aid to hungry families in time. 

Recently, I watched a news report showing just how dire the situation is. Seeing video footage of hungry families in agony breaks one’s heart.  It is especially difficult to see people on the verge of starvation. They are desperate for food, thin and frail. In this scenario, we cannot expect a person to survive much longer. 

The most gut-wrenching part of these videos shows the groans and cries of malnourished babies and young children, while their mothers or family members look on – with no other choice but to watch them slowly go. There is simply not enough medicine or food. Even powdered milk is unavailable.

Priests and religious sisters who work in the region witness these sad realities on a daily basis – walking alongside poor families in their pain. CNEWA works with church partners from the Ethiopian Catholic Church to provide emergency relief to remote areas like the Adigrat eparchy, a Catholic diocese that covers the entire Tigray region.

In remote places like Aksum, a pilgrimage site which reportedly houses the Ark of the Covenant, the people are so hungry that they have resorted to drinking Holy Water in a last attempt to fill their stomachs.

There’s also the story of a mother who spends much of her time in the hospital while medical professionals care for her severely malnourished baby daughter.  However, she is torn because her other children at home are also hungry.  She decides to have her sick and dying daughter baptized in the Church.  Somehow, despite her great hardships, she still finds hope in her faith.

We hope for an end to the war soon, but the situation in Ethiopia continues to be critical. This August, as Canadians wrap up their summer activities, please pray for relief for my people and, if you can, help us financially, before it is too late for many. 

I also, sincerely, would like to express my heartfelt gratitude on behalf of Ethiopian people in need that we have served in the near past, and to those Canadian people who always generously stood by our side with their prayers and financial support. God bless you.

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