Ethiopia on the Brink

When the coronavirus first hit the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, one of the first casualties was Benson Gassanga.

He managed to remain healthy. But as with many in the country, he suffered from side effects that were not physical, but economic. An English teacher, he was prohibited from meeting with his students due to the safety measures and protocols intended to combat the spread of the virus. Without computers and internet connections, remote learning was not an option. He lost his job and his home.

Without an income, he now lives with a friend. Getting by is a daily struggle.

“It changed our lives in different ways,” the young man explains as he sits in the sun wearing a blue and purple shirt.

“People are prisoners in their own houses, they have lost their jobs, some people became beggars. It affected everyone.” …

It is a story one hears again and again. As one of the world’s poorest countries, Ethiopia could not afford to implement a complete lockdown when the coronavirus first took hold in the northeast African nation last March. Nevertheless, many shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses in the cities closed, at least temporarily. Tourism dried up with increasing security concerns and the implementation of a mandatory quarantine to contain the pandemic. In a country with few social services and no safety nets, the measures to contain the virus and interethnic violence have shocked the fragile economy and hit hard the country’s vulnerable populations, who always bear the worst of any downturn or tragedy.

Food insecurity has risen as locust invasions, floods, droughts and now war in the country’s northern Tigray region exacerbate the already tenuous COVID-19 landscape.

To read how the church is responding, saving lives, see the Ethiopia on the Brink in the most recent edition of ONE magazine.

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