COVID-19 Update: CNEWA’s Emergency Fund Helps Feed Mothers and Children in Ethiopia

The CNEWA Emergency Relief Fund for COVID-19 recently rushed emergency aid to Ethiopia. And the impact is already being felt. We received the following report on one clinic saving lives and helping children, thanks to the generosity of CNEWA’s donors.

“The coronavirus has invaded our CNEWA world and with it comes a myriad of uncertainties, insecurities and unknowns. At the same time, we members of the CNEWA family are proclaimers of hope.  This is our underlying core identity, which we do in the name of our Holy Father, in service to the Universal Church.”

That was Msgr. John E. Kozar’s message to all CNEWA regional directors serving in field offices on 20 March.  Not long after, Pope Francis issued his Easter message to the world. “This is not a time for indifference,” the Holy Father said, ‘because everyone is suffering and must be united.” Those powerful words come alive when generous hands and hearts, impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, extend help to brothers and sisters in emergency need.

These hands and hearts certainly broke the barriers of indifference when their generous solidarity reached out to the remote corners and congested residences in large towns in Ethiopia where CNEWA serves. This response ignited hope and restored courage to many religious sisters on the ground who serve those helpless, frustrated, confused poor people and malnourished children who cry out to their mothers for whatever kind of food is available, begging for something to fill their small empty stomachs.

Many young rural girls used to move to urban areas and find employment; they would serve as house maids for some busy families, sell traditional coffee at roadside stands, or engage in occasional laundry services to some large urban families. In time, they find themselves becoming mothers of one or two children; often, these young women are unmarried. The COVID-19 pandemic, along with the nationwide state of emergency, for five months has compelled these unprepared young mothers to return back to their villages, seeking help and support not just for themselves but also for their children. They need something to survive.

This reality is worsening the poverty level of some rural families. To stop the crying of their children, unprepared mothers think that their young ones are sick and need to visit nearby health facilities. Health workers discover that the children are underweight and are suffering severe malnourishment. Then the health workers report these cases to the sister in charge, who looks for ways to help these children.

In the past, villages had relatively few of these cases. But now, says Sister Dinknesh Getachew, from the Congregation of Divine Providence and administrator of Mendida Medhanealem Catholic Medium Clinic, as a result of COVID-19, more young single mothers are returning to their rural families, with malnourished children in tow.  Sister Dinknesh says concerns are growing.

“Our mother house support from Rome is now significantly diminished due to COVID-19-related death toll in Italy,” she told me “We were wondering what to do for these children. It is at this confusing, frustrating and panicking time that CNEWA’s attention to our health facility came. To us, this attention is providential light, restoring hope and helping us regain the courage to serve.”

Sister Dinknesh opened one room, filled with packed food items ready for distribution to malnourished children, and cried out, “Look! How your providential generosity enriched us with this multitude gifts for malnourished children. We locally prepared it putting all the necessary ingredients together, to restore the weight of these children.”

Sisters sort food packages for poor in Ethiopia
Sisters at the Mendida Medhanealem Catholic Medium Clinic in Ethiopia show some of the food packages that have been prepared for the poor impacted by COVID-19. These packages were made possible by gifts to the CNEWA COVID-19 Emergency Fund. (photo: CNEWA)

How touching it is to hear such words of hope from a sister who has devotedly spent her life trying to save innocent lives and ease the burden of single mothers.  This expression of hope of Sister Dinknesh is shared by many religious sisters who recently received donations from CNEWA’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Tomorrow: more on how these sisters, “foot soldiers of the church,” are serving those impacted by COVID-19 in Ethiopia.

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