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Poor souls

Lesley is back from her working trip to Ethiopia, and the news is anything but good with regard to Tigray and its neighbouring rural regions of Amhara. We do not, however, plan to discuss Ethiopian politics here, even though we have far more accurate facts than most newspapers reporting on the situation in the international press. We are endeavouring to remain ‘neutral’ and to focuss on our efforts to provide humanitarian support. With all the inaccuracy and one-sided reporting in the media, though, this is far from easy.

While Lesley was in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Enterprises managed to make further emergency food relief allocations, this time to a region now crowded with displaced Tigrayans and also to the inhabitants of several villages close to the Tigray border. In many cases, all their food had been stolen by soldiers, and dwellings burnt to the ground. In some cases, entire families in these villages had been massacred. In one town which received our aid, an infant had been found trying to snuggle into his dead mother’s bloody arms. She, his father, and two elder siblings had all been killed. What, you may well ask, was their crime?

The pictures here show the state in which we have found many older people in these villages: too fragile to work, no money, reliant on alms. Soldiers had not only taken their food and any warm bedding, they had robbed them of their dignity. One of our supporters summed it up in two words when she saw these pictures: ‘poor souls’.

As you know by now, we don’t give up. So how can you help us to help so many in need? Well, first of all, please stop believing everything which is said in the press reports in most international media about Ethiopia. While the situation is as bad as it can be, the blame being apportioned to one side of the conflict needs to be seriously reassessed as it is gravely inaccurate. The problem is, many reports are based on effective propaganda from one side of the conflict. The large number of reporters who copy such reports have not been into Tigray for years if ever, and in many cases have never even been in Ethiopia.

Newsletter July 2021

In our newsletter (the first one in a new updated layout) you will find the latest news about the status of our projects and the general current situation in the Tigray region.

Download the full Newsletter here: EE Newsletter July 2021

Millions face starvation in Ethiopian Tigray

There’s an old English expression which suggests that disasters rarely happen one at a time. How true this is for the Ethiopian state of Tigray, which right now is facing a humanitarian catastrophe of proportions which will likely outdo the shocking famine of the 1980s.

An estimate appearing throughout the world’s media this week suggests that a full 91% of the population of Tigray (over 5 million people) have reached starvation level. Covid 19, locust plagues, civil war, and the complete absence of the small rain which should have fallen in March/April means that yet again millions of the world’s most fragile citizens are facing death through starvation. Our hope that the very real emergency aid we have provided over the past year could come to an end when the rain fell in March has been shattered by the unexpected hot and dry weather of the past two months. We are receiving daily calls from our local government and our wonderful manager about the situation which is now far, far worse than anything we have experienced in our 14 years in Tigray.

Can we stop the huge death toll which – without international support – will eventuate, and which is already mounting? No, we can’t. However, we have been asked to do the following and we will try to provide this help. For the next four months until the wet season begins we are asked to ‘adopt’ the families of the students at our school. This will keep those 1500 students and their families alive and in return their parents will ensure that they return to school NOW. Our school will reopen its doors this week under government mandate but due to the problems in the region over the past year the incentives for students to return are understandably low.

Can you help us? Keeping a 5-7 person family alive over the next four months will cost CHF 200. We cannot promise to get photos of all the families but we will at least be able to give you names. And you can rest assured that every cent of that CHF 200 – or whatever you can afford – will go to that family in the form of food and water. We have an excellent and experienced team in place which has been delivering food aid on our behalf for a year now and they are able to manage this.

One of our donors has offered to double the amount we can raise in family sponsorship up to CHF 5’000.- That is 25 of the roughly 900 families which make up our school community. Please help us find sponsors for at least the first 25 families in the coming days so that we can take advantage of this generous offer to support a further 25 families. For further information, you can contact our project leader Lesley (info@ethiopianenterprises.org) who was back in the region in February and is well informed about the current situation.

Donation platform (please specify ’emergency support Lemlem Baro’):    https://ethiopianenterprises.org/english/donations/

Newsletter March 2021

Lesley finally made it to Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray, in February! In our newsletter you will find the latest news about the status of our projects and the general current situation in the Tigray region.

Download the full Newsletter here: EE Newsletter 2021-03 e

2020 Annual Report available

In the last few days, the detailed and richly illustrated 24-page Annual Report 2020, prepared by Thomas Baumann, has been published. In it you will find a detailed description of what Ethiopian Enterprises has done and achieved in the past difficult year in Mehoni, as well as many extensive details about our projects and the situation in Ethiopia. HERE you can find the complete Annual Report as pdf-file (only available in German language)!

Newsletter November 2020

Unfortunately, for various reasons we cannot travel to our project area at the moment. In our newsletter you will find the latest news about the status of our projects and the general current situation in the Tigray region.

Download full Newsletter here: EE Newsletter 2020-11 e

Ethiopians pray for peace

In this past week, there has been a grave escalation of political differences between the Ethiopian federal government and the state of Tigray. The conflict which has accompanied our work increasingly in the past two-three years, and which reached a climax with the postponed elections in August during the Corona lockdown, has erupted in the past days.

This week military action has begun on both sides of the conflict, and we have had to postpone Lesley’s planned return to Mehoni next week. Prime Minister Abey Ahmed has declared a state of emergency in the country, and there is currently no way for us to know when we can return. We are grateful that we were able to see and interact live with our community last month, especially as all communications via email and telephone in Tigray have now been blocked. Ethiopians are reporting that the country is ‘at war’ but it is impossible for us or journalists to get exact information with no communication channels open.

Ethiopia’s stability in the last years has played an important role in the Horn of Africa. Destabilization at this time would be a disaster. We hope that the efforts by international bodies to help resolve the differences peacefully will be successful. Rural communities in southern Tigray such as ours have had enough tragedy this year with Covid-19 and plagues of locusts. If Tigray becomes a fully fledged battlefield in the coming weeks, the suffering of the rural Tigray population will be hard to imagine. We are continuing to pack our materials for our next return visit and hoping that this will nevertheless soon be possible.

A word about donations…

Finally, a word about how donations to Ethiopian Enterprises are allocated to our various projects:

Currently Ethiopian Enterprises finances four separate activities.
1.  Lemlem Baro Elementary School, with its new Early Learning Center currently under construction
2.  Marsa Elementary School, our second elementary school, currently under construction.
3.  Raya Scholarship Program
4.  EE Emergency Fund (emergency food or water distribution, emergency health care, etc.)

Donors are welcome to specify an activity for which they would like their donation to be used when making their donation. The latter will then be dedicated to that activity. Donations can also be made without a specific target activity which allows us to dedicate that donation to where it is most needed. But no matter whether a donation is specifically dedicated or not, one thing remains the same in all cases: all donations are channelled in full into our fund. There are absolutely no exceptions to this as our board members cover all administrative expenses of our association privately, and pay all expenses involved in project visits themselves.

If you would like to cover a specific item yourself, or give a friend a donation as a Christmas gift, here are just a few of the items we urgently need and the unit cost price. Every item donated helps us and our community greatly.

1.   50 exercise books for orphans: CHF 18
2.   20 teachers’ marking pens: CHF 25
3.   Kindergarten student chair: CHF 28
4.   50 kilograms of millet to feed a family of 5-6 people for a month: CHF 35
5.   Primary school integrated desk and seat for three students: CHF 85
6.   Kindergarten table for 6 students in our Early Learning Center and 1st grade classooms: CHF 140
7.   Work table for teachers’ staffroom: CHF 85
8.   Cupboard for Early Learning Center: CHF 95
9.   Climbing bars for playground: ca. CHF 100
10. Fruit day for 1500 students (each student receives an orange or banana): CHF 400

Report on Food Allocation in Cher Cher

While she was back in our project regions of Mehoni, Raya and Cher Cher last month, EE board member Lesley was involved in a multitude of activities. One that made a deep impression on her was her participation in the allocation of emergency food aid in the region of Cher Cher, an hour’s drive to the south east of Mehoni over largely unsealed roads. We are sharing her report of the allocation below.

‘The millet for the final allocation to the high risk families in Cher Cher had been weighed and packed into the appropriate coloured bags before I arrived in Mehoni. The work had been done at Lemlem Baro school by a group of casual workers so it was all ready to be packed onto the lorry along with cartons containing bottles of cooking oil, and bars of soap. But on Wednesday morning when we were due to leave for Cher Cher, the lorry we had ordered was no longer ‘available’. Fortunately our manager was up at 4 am overseeing preparations and contacted the construction team from our new school. There was a lorry at the site and the driver agreed to make the delivery for us. By 5 am a group of young labourers had packed all the remaining grain onto the lorry and it was on its slow drive to Cher Cher with two of our teachers from Lemlem Baro accompanying the load to check that there were no ‘mishaps’. Two hours later, we followed them.

On the way, I saw a number of the mud/branch houses which are typical for the Cher Cher region which often have beautifully decorated ‘eaves’ under their rooves. In some cases there were animals lying contentedly in front of the houses and I would have loved to stop and take more pictures. But on this morning there was no time. By the time we arrived at the site, the bags were already being laid out at intervals over a large field. On one side of the field there was a group of soldiers who were very surprised to see me getting out of the van. Actually they were surprised at the whole scene as they had been planning some sort of military exercise on the site and had not been informed that it was reserved for us that morning. Fortunately, a short discussion was all that was needed to solve the issue, helped by the fact that we had government officials from Cher Cher with us.

While we were adding the oil bottles and soap to the bags of grain, the recipients arrived. It took a long time for them to get their names checked on a register and to be allowed to sit on their bag. Part of the problem was that many of the older designated recipients were too weak to even walk from their home to the field and had needed to send a neighbour or family member to collect for them. These had to be checked as well. Our workers helped many of the older, ill people to carry the grain to their homes.

For now, this was EE’s final allocation. Since the closure of markets in April we have raised close to CHF 100’000 for emergency help from two foundations and dozens of our private donors. We have literally saved thousands of lives in our regions with these allocations and our manager Melkamu Abate must be thanked yet again for the huge extra workload he has had. In addition, our school teachers Haftom Niguse and Fitsum Woldesenbet have contributed to these allocations made throughout our project zone, as have other workers from our school.’

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