LWF and partners foster hope and resilience in Northern Ethiopia

Mothers lined up to receive the household kits provided by LWF Ethiopia at convenient child safe distribution sites. Photo: LWF Ethiopia
Mothers lined up to receive the household kits provided by LWF Ethiopia at convenient child safe distribution sites. Photo: LWF Ethiopia

Overcoming conflict with hope and dignity

(LWI) - Amidst the unrest in Ethiopia the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and its partners are striving to deliver aid and create safe spaces for vulnerable groups. Civilians are often the most vulnerable group in conflict settings. Providing a local presence that focuses on relief and emergency care can be a source of hope and dignity when social cohesion is scarce.

Creating safe spaces for children during times of unrest

Since the onset of the civil war in Ethiopia in November 2020, clashes between the Tigray People' Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Ethiopian Defense Forces and allies have left a trail of civilian casualties. As in many internal conflicts, women and children bear the brunt when insecurity arises, and community infrastructure meant to protect social cohesion begins to unravel.

A settlement created at the Mai Weyni school in Mekelle hosts Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) from Western Tigray, one of the disputed lands between the Amhara and Tigray regional states.

LWF Ethiopia is currently running a child-friendly space (CFS) in Mai Weyni where 61 boys and girls spend their mornings and afternoons everyday learning and playing. They have access to toys like dolls, Lego, learning materials but have a shortage of pens, pencils, drawing colors, and paper. There are four LWF staff members who are all members of the IDP community. The instructor, Tsega Fitsum, is aided by two community development facilitators (CDF), Kiros Abadi and Awot Asgedom. They are supervised by Siye Yonas, who has worked with the LWF for over nine months.

“The children have found a safe and happy space, but a lot of amenities are still missing. There is no playground to make the space complete” shared Sophia Gebreyes, LWF  Ethiopia representative.  

Gebreyes added “children are the most innocent victims of the Northern Ethiopia crisis having been exposed to brutalities of war, faced starvation and suffered from thirst while being displaced multiple times. And yet, they are also the most resilient, bringing fun, smiles and joy wherever they are present.”

Children are the most innocent victims of the Northern Ethiopia crisis having been exposed to brutalities of war, faced starvation and suffered from thirst while being displaced multiple times. And yet, they are also the most resilient.
Sophia Gebreyes, resident representative of LWF Ethiopia

From relief to resilience through intentional accompaniment  

In December, LWF Ethiopia distributed International Organization for Migration (IOM) funded household kits to 1500 households, prioritizing pregnant, lactating women, the elderly and people with different abilities drawn up from four IDP sites that the Government assigned to LWF: Debre Berhane, Basso, Tebasse and Haile Mariam high schools.

The distribution took place in the old LWF Ethiopia Soil and Water Conservation Projects’ compound that is now owned by the Evangelical Lutheran Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), an LWF member church. The distribution site was convenient and safe, even for the children who had fun while their mothers lined up to receive the household kits.   

Zahara Murad, a young mother who hailed from Mersa and fled to Debre Berhane with her three children, said that she had received five kilograms of wheat and some rice as soon as she arrived. She expressed concern, however, that food distributions may be halted as IDPs are encouraged to move back to their original locations. “Yes, we can go back, geographically speaking to the places where we come from, but our livelihood is gone, we cannot go back to what we had, at least in the foreseeable future.” she said.

Among growing discussions about returning IDPs, LWF Ethiopia expressed a continued commitment to providing accompaniment to ensure a dignified return. LWF Ethiopia is currently planning to work in return area in Northern Shoa in food assistance and in WASH in heavily destroyed woredas, or districts, of Ansokia, Ataye, Shoa Robit, and TarmaBer. However, with the shifting control between armed actors, needs will be staggering.

By LWF/T. Rakoto