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Emergency Feeding and Health Care Program in southern Ethiopia

In Galcha, an area that straddles a contested stretch of land some 270 miles south of the capital of Addis Ababa, some 4,400 survivors first took shelter in six school compounds, public and Catholic, as well as the clinic of the Catholic parish of St. Paul. The parish, which includes some 6,000 Catholics, run primary and secondary schools and a clinic that normally treats 180 people a day.

“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.

“These people have lost everything, burnt, destroyed and looted.”

After a few weeks, the Social and Development Office of the Vicariate of Hawassa — the local jurisdiction of the Catholic Church that includes the parish of St. Paul in Galcha — appealed for emergency support with a strategy that included two phases: First, rush lifesaving food, emergency medical supplies and clothing. Second, resettle displaced people.

Many of the displaced 733 families have now moved out of the parish’s school compound and are temporarily sheltered with families. But the situation is dire, reports CNEWA’s Argaw Fantu, as the conditions are overcrowded, heightening the risk of communicable and waterborne diseases, such as malaria. Clinics are already reporting cases of intestinal illnesses, pneumonia and scabies.

But many “still return to the parish grounds daily for food and medical assistance,” continued Mr. Fantu.

“The situation is very frustrating and disturbing,” reported Sister Berhane Yoseph, a Franciscan Missionaries of Christ, who has served as the administrator of the clinic for the past six years.

“We quit our regular health care services. All our staff is engaged in emergency services. Some of our staff, because they are from the other tribe [the Guji], have escaped for fear of being attacked.

“Available resources for distribution are depleting. We don’t see hope for resettlement. Local authorities are engaged elsewhere and no one is visiting us. All the while, children are crying for food. How one can remain silent?”

Complicating matters is the fact that parish assistance for the displaced is directed to only one of the community’s impacted by the violence: “The clinic is now at risk,” added Sister Berhane Yoseph.

“I am worried and confused. We are serving only the Gedeo people, who are the majority of the displaced. But the church is universal and her service is for both peoples displaced by the violence.”

Limited resources and security concerns prohibit the parish from reaching out to the Guji — for now, the clinic administrator said, adding that she nevertheless hears calls for help every day.

“We need both prayer and material support.”

CNEWA’S RESPONSE

On 13 August, CNEWA rushed $40,000 in emergency aid to the Vicariate of Hawassa to help 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 the 733 families seeking help from the parish of St. Paul in Galcha for up to five months.

More funds are urgently needed, as hopes for a quick resettlement of the displaced families evaporate, and as the needs of the Guji people are finally addressed.

“Amid this crisis,” said Sister Berhane Yoseph, “the people are very grateful for our services. They say, ‘this is the only place where we receive fair and equal help.’

“We are a really great hope to them!”





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