13 August 2018
A sister carries a box of biscuits to help feed children at St. Paul Catholic Church. Hundreds of families fleeing violence have gathered there, seeking refuge. CNEWA is rushing emergency aid to support them. (photo: CNEWA)
Catholic Near East Welfare Association has rushed $40,000 in emergency aid to help more than 4,000 people fleeing interethnic violence in south central Ethiopia.
Msgr. John E. Kozar, president of CNEWA, said the emergency assistance will provide food, medicines and sanitary items for about 733 families, including some 700 children under the age of 5 and about 400 expectant or nursing mothers. All are seeking refuge on the grounds of St. Paul Catholic Church in an area known as Galcha, which straddles a contested stretch of land dividing two related but distinct tribal groups some 270 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa. The parish, which includes some 6,000 Catholics, runs primary and secondary schools and a clinic that normally treats 180 people a day.
Since April, interethnic violence has rocked many parts of Ethiopia, especially among the various ethnic groups living in areas of south central and southeastern Ethiopia. In the east, violence has claimed the lives of at least six priests of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, as well as many laity. The recent violence in south central Ethiopia has pitted the Gedeo tribe of the Southern Nations and Nationalities People region against the neighboring Guji Oromo of the Oromia region, ultimately displacing nearly a million people from both communities and killing hundreds. The majority of both peoples are Protestant; some, however, are Ethiopian Orthodox, Muslim or Catholic.
A family stands amid the ruins of their destroyed house. Recent interethnic violence in Ethiopia has claimed the lives of both priests and laity, and displaced nearly a million people. (photo: CNEWA)
“All of the IDPs [internally displaced peoples] have lost their livelihoods,” reported CNEWA’s regional director for Ethiopia, Argaw Fantu. “Their houses have been burned to the ground, their livestock killed, their fields and crops — mostly coffee and enset, the staple for both peoples — destroyed.
“When the conflict first broke out our school compound was flooded with more than 400 people with their domestic animals,” said the pastor of St. Paul’s, Ugandan Father Tiberius Onyuthfua. “Days went by with no food and other essential provisions, especially for children under 5 and nursing mothers.”
While many of the 733 families have since been resettled with families in the parish area, they still return to the parish grounds daily for food and medical assistance. The emergency funds will enable the local jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, the Vicariate of Hawassa, which includes the parish of St. Paul, to secure supplies of fortified soya-cereal mix, high energy biscuits, beans, oil and whole wheat, as well as soap, water purifying chemicals, water containers and essential medicines for up to five months.
Sister Teresa Gebremariam distributes energy biscuits to the elderly at St. Paul’s Catholic Church. (photo: CNEWA)
An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works throughout the Horn of Africa, as well as in other areas of conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and India. On behalf of the pope, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches, rushing aid to displaced families; providing maternity and health care for the poorest of the poor; assisting initiatives for the marginalized, especially the children, elderly and disabled; and offering formation and supporting the education of seminarians, religious novices and lay leaders.
CNEWA is a registered charity in the United States by the State of New York and in Canada. All contributions are tax deductible and tax receipts are issued. In the United States, donations can be made online at www.cnewa.org; by phone at 800-442-6392; or by mail, CNEWA, 1011 First Avenue, New York, NY 10022-4195. ??In Canada, visit www.cnewa.ca; write a cheque to CNEWA Canada and send to 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, Ontario K1H 6K9; or call toll-free at 1-866-322-4441.