ETHIOPIA – More than 10.2 million people threatened by famine


 Aid to the Church in Need grants 460,000 euros in emergency aid to famine victims

In an interview with the international Catholic pastoral charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the deputy secretary general of the Ethiopian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Father Haile Gabriel Meleku, urgently warned about the consequences of the prevailing drought. A total of 10.2 million people are now suffering from famine, about two million more than just a month ago. However, he said that it is to be feared that the actual number is much higher and that those affected desperately need help before there are fatalities. He also said that the government was trying to distribute food from its own warehouses. However, the situation “could not be gotten under control without outside help.”

According to Father Meleku, the drought will kill off the cattle and large numbers of people will leave their villages to find food in other, less affected areas. In the search for grazing land for their cattle, nomads will move into areas in which conflict could arise with the resident population. A further consequence will be that more children will no longer be able to attend school.

Father Meleku explained that it is “important that the people stay in their villages and that help reaches them there.” He said that the Catholic church in Ethiopia has worked out an emergency assistance plan. Since well-organised structures are in place, it is possible to reach those in need quickly. Although not all areas are equally affected by drought and hunger, “the catastrophe can be felt everywhere.”

He then said that the situation has also influenced the life of the church. A lot of parishioners were no longer able to undertake what is for many a three to four hour walk to church because of the famine. The catechists, who, together with their families, primarily live from farming, are especially in need of help.

Aid to the Church in Need has approved emergency aid for 1,415 catechists in 13 of the famine-stricken dioceses to the amount of 460,000 euros, or 325 euros per family for the entire year.

Ethiopia is one of the countries that receives the most aid from Aid to the Church in Need. In 2014, projects there received more than 1.2 million euros in support.

 Eva-Maria Kolmann