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Operation Rescue Update Ethiopia

An update from Kate Doherty

Dear Friends of Operation Rescue,

As I write from this ‘lockdown’ position, my first thought is to trust that this email will find you and your loved ones well. We are going through unprecedented times and there are so many concerns here on our own doorstep . However I felt it was important to make you aware of what is happening at the moment in Ethiopia and specifically with our friends in ORE.

I have been considering writing for some days but the news yesterday from Getachew  [ ORE General Manager] has prompted me to delay no longer. Up until now, the news from Tigray province was encouraging in that no COVID -19 cases had been reported there . Tigray went into lockdown very quickly after the first cases were reported in the capital Addis Ababa with schools,street  markets, offices, restaurants etc all closed .   All three ORE projects were closed which the staff found heartbreaking and staff were asked to take their annual holiday .  However ORE had been asked to be involved in a government project with street children and were required to continue with that so four staff have committed to staying in the ORE guesthouse to work with these children with no one allowed to leave the project premises .

When the lockdown in Tigray occurred, there was panic buying and food shortages but the project  staff were able to purchase 25 kilo bags of flour [teff to make the staple injera was unavailable] and at the end of April they commenced the immense job of getting this to the families of the children who of course were no longer able to depend on a midday meal at ORE. 323 families in Mekelle as well as 52 in Adigrat and 91 in Adwa received this flour and were deeply appreciative .

This effort drew the attention of the media in Mekelle and there was a short piece about it on Tigray TV.  There were then plans to repeat this effort later in May. Bereket, one of the Operation Rescue staff, described their efforts:

‘Under our project, we have more than five hundred households in need who are currently receiving our support and we are focusing on targeting this population, since helping hundreds of households is helping the community. The underserved and the vulnerable people who could be missed by other programs of the government will be supported in our project’.  

The trustees of Operation Rescue {UK& Ireland] discussed the situation with Marciano Teixeira , founder of  Operation Rescue, and it was agreed that we would bear the cost of the food programme in Ethiopia leaving him and the Swiss Board of Management  able to use their  resources to support the Operation Rescue centres in Brazil and India .

Regular contacts with Getachew through email and Whats App indicated that the virus had not reached Mekelle but that all changed today with the news that the first cases have been reported and there is a lot of panic . As you will understand, concepts such as social distancing and regular handwashing mean little in a culture where there is not always enough water to drink and where communal living and eating are the norm. The virus is a respiratory one and when I think of the little homes of ORE children I have visited and consider how easily the virus could spread it is a matter of deep concern. Furthermore my visit to a government hospital in Mekelle a few months ago to visit the mothers of two ORE children would lead me to believe that the health service there could be utterly overwhelmed if the virus gets a real hold .

So – my clear purpose in writing is to ask you to pray earnestly that the virus will be contained , that the cases already confirmed can allow tracing that will help in containment and that our beloved ORE family of staff and children and their families in Mekelle,Adwa and Adigrat will be protected.

I should add that a few weeks ago there were severe locust swarms over Mekelle and in addition there are very serious political tensions between the Tigray government and the central government in Addis Ababa  and this has had a serious economic impact on the province . Tensions with Tigray’s northern neighbour Eritrea have also increased .

So many of you have beeen faithful supporters of ORE for many years and it has been a great joy to see that support grow and grow . May we join together in prayer with our dear friends in ORE and trust that our Almighty God will protect them and provide ior them in every way necessary.

Kate can be contacted by email on mkdohertyekn@gmail.com or mobile phone at 07786156721.