COVID-19 in Ethiopia: A State of Emergency — and New Challenges for the Poor

I want to offer a brief update on COVID-19 and how it is affecting us in Ethiopia.

So far authorities have already taken a series of measures to stem the spread of the virus: closing schools, banning public gatherings and requiring most employees to work from home. Efforts have intensified in recent days.

On 4 April, the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia has jointly declared a month-long time of national prayer to combat the pandemic by praying for mercy to Almighty God. The program was launched on Monday 6 April during a nationally televised broadcast from the national palace with the presence of the president of the country and other high rank dignitaries. Members of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia are the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Muslim, the Ethiopian Catholic Church, the Seventh Day Adventist, Evangelical Churches’ Association and Pentecostal Council groups.  For the month, an hour-long prayer service is televised live every evening on four different TV channels. Members of the different religious denominations jointly participate from their homes. All religious institutions in the country have closed their public houses of worship.

On Wednesday 8 April, the prime minister declared a State of Emergency. Since Monday, public transportation services are required to reduce the number of passengers by half, to allow proper social distancing.  More than 90 percent of Ethiopians use public transportation. Meantime, prices for travel have doubled. This is one side effect of the pandemic for low income people.  

The situation is very frustrating. Life is becoming challenging for low income families and for those surviving on daily labors. Sanitary materials for cleaning and disinfecting are not affordable for low income families and are still in short supply. Various national voluntary groups and international aid organizations are trying to distribute sanitary materials in the capital and to regional health facilities.  

In this Holy Week, we join our hearts with all the victims of this pandemic who are in hospitals and or quarantined, those who are separated from their loved ones who cannot stand by their side and care for them. We also pray for all health workers who courageously take on this very challenging medical vocation, standing alongside the suffering and the sick.   

Joining our hearts, we pray for God’s mercy as we pass through Passion Week contemplating the Passion of Jesus. We also look forward in hope to Easter and pray for an end to this pandemic that knows no boundaries. 

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