CNEWA Canada

Ethiopia — the only sub-Saharan nation with a Christian culture dating to the earliest days of the church — is facing the effects of a two-year civil war in the north and an alarming increase in food and fuel costs because of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war

One of the poorest and most populous countries in Africa, more than 22 million people in Ethiopia are living below the poverty line. Some 2.5 million people in Tigray and neighboring regions are in need of humanitarian aid as the area struggles to recover from the conflict. More than 18.6 million children need medical treatment from diseases caused by severe malnutrition. Many Ethiopians are fleeing the country. There are an estimated 750,000 Ethiopians in Saudi Arabia, according to U.N. reports.

Basic services, such as electricity, fuel supplies and communications are not adequate. Many people are still in traumatized situations from the impact of war, so while social services like schools prepare to resume, they must consider the trauma of their students and teachers to help them adjust to their new reality. For many, life has not returned to normal: many displaced people are still in temporarily sheltered places and schools damaged by the war are not yet rehabilitated.

These challenges have greatly affected CNEWA’s work in the country, with increased requests for support from the CNEWA Addis Ababa Office. However, the socio-cultural fabric and the strong faith among the country’s diverse denominations is one of hope — the hope of the church to respond to the demanding pastoral and social ministry service needs of its people.

CNEWA’s support of the local church allows the agency to respond to the pastoral and humanitarian needs in Ethiopia. 

Accompanying the Church

CNEWA focuses its pastoral support on strengthening and ensuring the longevity of seminaries and novitiates, university chaplaincies, lay catechist formation programs, family formation programs and the pastoral programs of the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS) at the national level. CNEWA’s support of the local church includes assistance in repairing parish facilities damaged by age, civil strife or natural disaster; the acquisition of liturgical books and materials; and media-assisted evangelization initiatives.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians pray at an Orthodox chapel near the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem on 29 January. (photo: OSV News/Tom Tracy)

Responding to Human Needs

Due to the impact of the prolonged conflict in the Tigray region and other parts of the country, the worst drought in decades and the economic crisis, CNEWA has received an increase in requests for humanitarian assistance and for the funding of nutritional support to children in primary schools, the provision of educational materials and access to education facilities, access to a water supply for child care facilities and food assistance for the elderly. CNEWA supports childcare initiatives such as schools, children’s homes, nutrition programs, centers for physically disabled children and residences for children with special needs. CNEWA also collaborates with institutions that provide training and education for prisoners under the prison chaplaincy of the Archdiocese of Addis Ababa, by meeting the basic needs of urban refugees through JRS Urban Center and by offering food support to elderly people in the remote areas of southern Ethiopia.  

Students in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray. (photo: Petterik Wiggers)

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