A drought has increased the needs of already struggling families in Ethiopia. But for sponsored children, like 9-year-old Blen Ashenati, food scarcity in the region has not had devastating effects. That’s because 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.
Food Insecurity in Ethiopia
- 6 million children are at risk of hunger, disease and lack of water because of the recent drought.
- 80% of Ethiopia’s agricultural yield depends on the main rainy season, June through September.
- 2 million Ethiopians are in need of urgent food assistance.
- 458,000 children are expected to be treated for severe malnutrition in 2016, up from the usual 250,000 annually.
- 85% 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
Blen’s grandmother helps her prepare for a day at her Compassion centre in Welenchiti, a hardscrabble town in the Rift Valley. Most people in Blen’s community work as day labourers, and 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 families like Blen’s.
Pray that God will continue to provide for Blen’s family and preserve her grandparents’ health.
Blen and other sponsored children regularly attend a Bible study at their Compassion centre. Although many families face hunger, our church partners are spiritually feeding them. In addition to providing sponsored children with spiritual development, church partners work quickly to meet additional needs 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. Ask that children in Welenchiti will grow up to become fulfilled Christian adults.
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. So 74 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 fathers to leave for jobs in different cities.
“It shakes the whole family system. It’s not just the food provision. It affects relationships, affects school attendance, it affects attendance at our partner churches, and it affects the whole physical health.”
Pray for God to provide the resources necessary to keep together families in Ethiopia.
Piles of provisions
Women take turns filling sacks with sorghum, a sweet grain, at a Compassion centre in Ethiopia. During this afternoon, they 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 partner churches affected by the drought will distribute food supplies four or five times. Tsehaywota says the distribution sends a powerful message to the community that the churches are committed to children and the poor. Blen’s grandma says of the aid provided through Compassion: “[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 better provide for their families.
Thanks to Compassion sponsors and donors, Blen and her family have food at home during this difficult time. Blen watches her grandma pour batter onto the family’s stove to make injera, a spongy bread eaten with many meals in Ethiopia. Although erratic weather patterns will continue to threaten the food supply for African families, 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.
By Willow Welter, photos by Chuck Bigger