Home / Region + Country Categories  / Africa  / East Africa  / Ethiopia  / ETHIOPIA: Salesian VIS volunteer receives Merit of the Italian Republic award for her work on water wells in Ethiopia

ETHIOPIA: Salesian VIS volunteer receives Merit of the Italian Republic award for her work on water wells in Ethiopia


(MissionNewswire) Elisabetta Cipollone, a Salesian International Volunteering for Development (VIS) volunteer, has been given a Merit of the Italian Republic award from Italian President Sergio Mattarella for her “A water well for Andrea” project in Ethiopia. President Mattarella awarded 32 Merit of the Italian Republic awards to citizens who have distinguished themselves for acts of heroism, commitment to solidarity, rescue efforts, international cooperation, the protection of minors, and the promotion of culture and legality.

Cipollone, who lost her son Andrea a few years ago in a road accident, fulfilled her son’s dream of bringing water to Africa after reading a page in his diary. She then collaborated with VIS to launch the project. To date, 24 wells have been built. The last was in March 2019. The project will continue with the construction of other wells. It is Cipollone’s ambition to create a water point along the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

In 2017, Ethiopia experienced the worst drought the country had seen in more than 50 years. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced that humanitarian needs in the country have tripled since the beginning of 2015 as the drought led to successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths. According to the United Nations, agricultural production in the affected regions fell by 50 to 90 percent.

As a result, food insecurity and malnutrition rates are alarming in the country with FAO reporting that some 10.2 million people are food insecure. One-quarter of all districts in Ethiopia are officially classified as facing a food security and nutrition crisis.

“In the cities, many Ethiopians 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.

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.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 38 percent of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85 percent of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.

The country has 4 million orphans which account for nearly 12 percent of all children. According to UNICEF, more than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has affected the country. Thousands more children run away each year seeking a better life on the streets.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Italy – Elisabetta Cipollone appointed Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic

Salesian Missions – Ethiopia

UNICEF – Ethiopia