A drought has increased the needs of already struggling families in Ethiopia. But for Compassion-assisted children like nine-year-old Blen, food scarcity in the region has not had devastating effects. The local church partners who run Compassion’s program in Ethiopia recognized the need and are responding by supplying extra food to families like Blen’s.

A quick look at food insecurity in Ethiopia in 2016

  • Six million children are at risk of hunger, disease and lack of water because of the recent drought.
  • Eighty per cent of Ethiopia’s agricultural yield depends on the main rainy season, June through September.
  • Two million Ethiopians are in need of urgent food assistance.
  • Approximately 458,000 children are expected to be treated for severe malnutrition in 2016, up from the usual 250,000 annually.
  • Eighty-five per cent of the country’s workforce depends on the main rainy season.

Source: July 2016 UNICEF report on El Niño in Ethiopia

Childhood in the Rift Valley

A girl and her mother stand in a yellow, stone walled room, looking into a small, wall mounted mirror. The mother stands behind the girl and does her hair.

Blen’s grandmother helps her prepare for a day at her Compassion centre in Welenchiti, a town in the Rift Valley.

Most people in Blen’s community work as day labourers. The average family income is $25 a month. After Blen’s young parents divorced, they left her to be raised by her grandparents. Blen lives in a small home with her grandmother, who stays home to raise her, and grandfather, a farmer who doesn’t earn enough money to meet the family’s needs. Now, a drought in the valley has increased the needs of Blen’s family and many others.

Pray that God will continue to provide for Blen’s family and preserve her grandparents’ health.

Physical and spiritual hunger

Ethiopian children sit in small, plastic lawn chairs in a dark room. They look past the camera and listen to someone speaking to them.

Blen and other sponsored children regularly attend their Compassion centre, where they receive support in all aspects of life—including spiritual development. Children attend Bible study at the Compassion centre to be spiritually fed even as church partners work quickly to feed them physically when disasters including droughts occur.

The El Niño weather pattern has triggered one of Ethiopia’s worst droughts in decades, according to a U.S. embassy report. A dry 2015 killed crops and exacerbated hunger throughout the country.

Pray for encouragement among Compassion’s church partners in Ethiopia as they seek to ensure children are both physically and spiritually fed.

Responding to hunger’s toll

Ethiopian children wait outside one of Compassions development centres. The sit in front of a wall with illustrations, words and numbers painted on it.

Mothers of Compassion-assisted children line up outside a child development centre to receive food staples.

Because Compassion’s church partners commit to know, love and protect each child in the program, church leaders in Blen’s village saw the strain the drought was placing on children’s families. Church partners in the hardest-hit areas acted quickly to begin distributing food to these families.

Tsehaywota Taddesse, Compassion Ethiopia’s country director, says hunger threatens to break up families, often forcing caregivers to leave for jobs in different cities.

“It shakes the whole family system. It’s not just the food provision. It affects relationships, school and Compassion centre attendance and the whole physical health.”

Pray for God to provide the resources necessary to keep families together in Ethiopia.

Piles of provisions

Six Ethiopian women bend to scoop sorghum into bags. They are inside a brick building gathered around a large mound of sorghum that has been poured out on the floor for distribution.

Women take turns filling sacks with sorghum, a sweet grain, at a Compassion centre in Ethiopia.

On one particular afternoon, Compassion’s church partners distributed 17,822 pounds of sorghum to 266 families, including Blen’s. Each family took home 67 pounds of sorghum and a litre of cooking oil. Over the year, Compassion’s church partners that are serving communities affected by the drought will distribute food supplies four to five times.

Tsehaywota says the distribution sends a powerful message to the community that the churches are committed to children and the needs of the community. Of the assistance, Blen’s grandmother says: “[It] helps us for a long time, and I appreciate that.”

Pray that God will help sponsored children’s parents find stable jobs, empowering them to provide for their families.

Enough in a time of crisis

Blen, a young, Ethiopian girl in white dress, watches her grandma pour batter onto the family's stove to make injera, a spongy bread eaten with many meals in Ethiopia. They are in a small room with dirt floors and grey, brick walls

Thanks to Compassion supporters, Blen and her family have food at home during this difficult time. Although erratic weather patterns will continue to threaten the food supply for families in the Rift Valley, children in Compassion’s program have the security of knowing their church leaders are there for them in times of increased need.

Pray that sponsors and donors will continue to equip churches around the world to meet their communities’ unique needs.

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You can help Compassion’s local church partners respond to crisis by giving to our Disaster Relief Fund.

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Words by Willow Welter, photos by Chuck Bigger

Written by: Compassion Canada