Responding to the call of Pope Francis, CNEWA has launched a COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, to help the most vulnerable people in the countries CNEWA serves. We recently received this report from Tarekegn Umuro, a programs officer in our regional office in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
On 6 August 2020, I traveled with Argaw Fantu, CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, to Metehara, to see first-hand the impact of the distribution of food and sanitary materials for people affected by COVID-19. We visited the Metehara Catholic Medium Clinic run by Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady (F.M.O.L.). Metehara is a small town located in eastern Ethiopia in the vicariate of Harar, 125 miles from Addis Ababa.
As the town is on the road to Djibouti and eastern parts of the country, it serves as a rest station for trucks and public buses; travelers stop for lunch or to spend the night. Although this created service job opportunities, many women who came from different parts of the country ended up being exposed to HIV. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Health, HIV prevalence in Metehara is 5.2 percent, which is the highest in the country. Unsafe habits of chewing khat (a local herb) made many people addicted and created economic and social problems.
According to Sister Fikrte Molla, F.M.O.L., administrator of the Metehara Catholic Medium Clinic, many of the single parents and youth are HIV-positive and the clinic has opened counseling and follow-up units to serve them. She also mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic made situations worse, as many people are obliged to stay at home and are not getting enough to eat. Furthermore, there are so many people who live hand-to-mouth in the town, and they also are facing hunger.
“As a Christian and a Catholic nun, to see such a problem of the people is heart breaking,” Sister Fikrte said. “That is why I knocked at CNEWA’s door for financial support, at least to offer them the minimum!” Thanks to CNEWA’s donors, the clinic has received $4,736.00 to help people during this crisis.
The clinic staffs, together with the Town Health Office representatives and community elders, thoroughly screened 300 of the poorest of the poor (mostly women) to offer food aid. The clinic also purchased food items and sanitary materials with the fund. Accordingly, each family received wheat flour, edible oil, and six pieces of soap. The clinic was also able to receive sanitizers, alcohol, face masks and detergents.
From what we saw, all of the beneficiaries are very happy and surprised by the unexpected support offered to them by CNEWA through the clinic. A 75-year-old man raised his two hands up and blessed God and the donors for their generous gifts that reached him at a right time.
He said, “You see, I have nothing at home to eat, I am a poor, old and sick man but these gifts would feed me and my family at least for 20 days. It is a great relief for me, thank you all!”
Another elderly lady who can’t walk due to sickness related to HIV-AIDS said loudly, “May the Almighty God reward those who remembered us and stretched their generous hands to fill our empty stomachs!”
Some of the beneficiaries were especially vulnerable: the disabled, people with HIV, sick and elderly people, lactating mothers, and families with malnourished children.
But there is more to do. The Town Health Office representatives told us that there are over 10,000 people in the town who need immediate lifesaving food support.
Finally, Sister Fikrte expressed her deep gratitude on behalf of the clinic, and its beneficiaries for the lifesaving support received from CNEWA. She also assured us of their continued prayers for the donors.
To learn more about CNEWA’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund, visit this page.