In August we reported on the crisis facing thousands of people in Ethiopia, who were forced to flee interethnic violence. Many found shelter and sanctuary in a Catholic parish. Yesterday, our regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu, sent us this update:
Last week, I met with Matewos Dangiso [the social development director of the Hawassa Vicariate, the Catholic jurisdiction where much of this violence in south central Ethiopia has taken place] to get an update on the current status of the displaced people in Gedeo and West Guji. He also gave me an overview of the Catholic Church’s efforts to help these people.
Currently, most of the displaced have returned to their home areas. The government and international humanitarian agencies have played the main role in this process. Since their displacement occurred at the beginning of the school year, officials urged families to return in order for their children to resume classes in their home areas — despite not having anything to return to.
The return of people to their homes has not been a smooth process. It was very difficult to distribute emergency food and non-food items. The area is poverty stricken, so those not displaced also tried to obtain emergency support — further complicating an already challenging process.
The returnees are now sheltered in seven districts in Gedeo and West Guji. They are without clothing, shelter, tools — in short, they are penniless — which is making serious demands on the church and aid agencies in their efforts to help. In addition to providing food and water, aid efforts include the provision of non-food essentials, such as cooking utensils, blankets, hygienic and medical items.
There is also reconstruction underway— building shelters, rebuilding schools, then furnishing them and providing basic farm needs so that people can try and make a living. At the same time, efforts are underway to support the peace-building process.
The government is developing a coordinated year-long plan that will require substantial funding. The Catholic Church is designated to serve in three shelter areas: Gedeb and Kochore in Gedeo for people displaced from West Guji and Garba, and in West Guji for people displaced from Gedeo area.These areas are where the church — with funding from CNEWA —previously served people through schools and health facilities. There are efforts underway to determine how many people are still in need, but the number is expected to total about 4,500 individuals.
CNEWA was among the first organizations to rush emergency aid, as well as Caritas Austria and Caritas Bolzana-Italy, which enabled the vicariate to purchase food items, medicines, hygienic supplies and household utensils to distribute to those affected.
Catholic Relief Services has also gotten involved and recently provided $25,000 for reconstruction work. Caritas Austria has also contributed additional €50,000.00 for the same purpose.
As we noted in our news roundup yesterday, this crisis is far from over. To help those in need in Ethiopia during this challenging and dangerous time, please visit this page. Thank you!