ETHIOPIA: Salesian Missionaries Working with VIS Volunteers are Helping to Provide Water to 12,000 During Drought
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries and volunteers with the International Volunteers for Development (VIS) are concerned that a devastating drought affecting Ethiopia is forcing residents to flee the country making them vulnerable to illegal migration (particularly to Europe and the Middle East), exploitation and human traffickers who are already taking advantage of the crisis.
Ethiopia is experiencing the worst drought the country has seen in more than 50 years. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently announced that agricultural assistance for the upcoming rainy season in Ethiopia is essential to help the drought-affected people as one of the strongest El Niño events on record continues to have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of farmers and herders. The agency reported that humanitarian needs in the country have tripled since the beginning of 2015 as the drought has led to successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths. According to the United Nations, agricultural production in the affected regions has fallen by 50 to 90 percent and the Ethiopian government has declared a state of emergency.
As a result, food insecurity and malnutrition rates are alarming in the country with FAO reporting that some 10.2 million people are now food insecure. One-quarter of all districts in Ethiopia are officially classified as facing a food security and nutrition crisis. In addition, the country’s first rainy season is delayed and, with Ethiopia’s main agricultural season fast approaching, farmers need immediate support to help them produce food between now and September for millions facing hunger.
The UN has estimated that nearly 500,000 people leave the country every year or twice that number if consideration is given to illegal migration and victims of trafficking. Due to the drought and food insecurity, many families are leaving the countryside and making their way to cities.
“In the cities, many Ethiopians will receive no help and often do not even find a place to sleep. In this situation there is a significant risk that many will fall victim to traffickers and become exploited and enslaved,” says Father Estifanos Gebremeskel, Superior of the Salesian Vice-Province of Ethiopia.
Using deep wells built by VIS volunteers in recent years, Salesian missionaries and volunteers are currently distributing water to schools, hospitals and first aid clinics, centers for street children, women’s refuges and diocesan centers. The goal during this emergency phase is to support the 12,000 residents of the Somali, Tigray and Oromia regions and those living in the South.
“A crisis of this magnitude calls for a swift response,” says the President of VIS. “We work alongside the Salesians in collaboration with local institutions and associations to help people overcome this terrible drought. They need emergency responses, but we also need to build infrastructure that can last over time.”
A Stop Human Trafficking Campaign, supported by VIS and the Association of Don Bosco Missions in Turin, Italy, is actively providing education and awareness programs to combat trafficking of potential migrants. The campaign also aims to establish development projects in the country to address the root causes of migration.
Salesian missionaries have a long history of providing educational and support services to poor youth in Ethiopia. Missionaries operate six primary schools, three secondary schools and six vocational training centers in the country. At all these Salesian-run educational facilities, youth are able to gain an education while accessing services including family sponsorship and school feeding programs. These supports reinforce the missionaries’ goal of keeping youth in school as long as possible. In addition, water and sanitation issues are regularly assessed by missionaries working in programs throughout the country and new water well projects are planned and implemented as needs arise.