COVID-19 IN ETHIOPIA

What’s happening

Updated: May 21, 2020

Currently, there are 398 cases of COVID-19, including one case at the local community health clinic that International Samaritan has partnered with near Kore garbage dump, and 5 deaths.  On April 3rd, the Ethiopian Prime Minister declared a state of emergency for the country, which has since been expanded to say that meetings of more than four people have been prohibited unless under special circumstances. However, to protect citizens, Ethiopia has also prohibited businesses from laying off workers for COVID-related reasons. Schools and businesses remain closed. Food prices for primary needs continue to rise.

 

What WE’RE DOING

Updated: May 21, 2020

The International Samaritan team in Ethiopia has begun outreach efforts in earnest, including: Distributing food baskets; conducting verbal presentations on COVID-19 as well as passing out pictorial pamphlets in the community to distribute information despite low literacy rates; traveling outside of Kore to collect and bring back sanitary supplies, disinfectant, masks, and soaps, which are distributed for free; hiring water trucks to bring clean water into the community; partnering with a local clinic that’s bringing testing and health care to Kore, making sure that they have a steady supply of gloves and masks.

 

families need support in Ethiopia

COVID-19 RELIEF FUND

$100 will keep a family safe for a whole month.

Those we serve are having to choose between being exposed to COVID-19 if they go to work or imminent starvation if they don’t.  Our relief fund is to keep them from having to go to work in the dump for a full month, which costs $100 per family.

Interested in making a donation? Click the link below.

 

Updates from kore

Below we have created a timeline of the updates we have received from our in-country leaders.

floods and locusts

Date: April 29, 2020

On top of the COVID-19 crisis in Ethiopia, the area around where we work in Addis Ababa is also experiencing extreme flooding, and our team has also reported that they’re struggling with locusts this year. To learn more about what’s happening, check out the article below:

Door-to-door screening and a prayer

Date: April 22, 2020

We want to share some of the ongoing efforts in Ethiopia, specifically Ethiopia’s ongoing initiative of doing door-to-door COVID-19 screening:

We also received the following prayer from Selam:

The COVID-19 pandemic has managed to do this- It has deemed all humanly status worthless. The great and mighty Nations are being hit severely, and they are unable to defend themselves against it. The rich and powerful have realized the utter uselessness of their wealth and power. This pandemic has brought humanity together, more than any other time in the past.

In such times where man’s powers prove to be useless, one thing happens. We start looking to our maker, the Alpha and Omega.Tribulations and suffering are often what bring us humans closer to God. In these moments of vulnerability, our weakness becomes vividly clear to us and we seek his deliverance.

In Ethiopia, everyone in their own religious denominations is seeking God for protection, forgiveness and salvation. Different religions have come to unite in their prayers. It was priorly uncommon to see different religious leaders under the same roof, praying to one God in solidarity. Followers have taken their lead and are praying in unison, with Nationwide prayers currently being carried on national TV stations for an hour each day. We have finally come to realize that faction and division have no use, and that collective prayers are necessary to overcome these times.

To even add to this beautiful solidarity, our government leaders have been seen joining hands in prayer. Our Nation’s leadership, which has for generations been void of spirituality, has seen a tremendous change. Our Prime minister, President, Mayor and several other officials have been heard urging citizens to join in prayer. Our First Lady, Mrs Zinash Tayachew, released a worship hymn titled ‘Maren’ which translates to ‘forgive us’ in Amharic. To see the First Lady kneeling and weeping in front of the Lord for forgiveness and protection of our Nation is a feeling that can’t be described in words. Leaders as well as followers have surrendered themselves to God.

In time when everyone is seeking God, our government has realized the need to practice social distancing in churches, mosques and worship places. The religious processions and preachings have been arranged to be transmitted live to followers on television and radios, so that they can worship in their own homes. Fellowships, religious conferences and worship ceremonies have been stalled for the time being. And religious leaders are seen spreading words of encouragement and caution to their followers. It is really heartening to see these leaders step in and work on advocacy because they are regarded very highly by the community, often more than any political or Public health figure.

In The Bible, in the book of Jonah, the Ninevites repented and fasted for three days, and God withheld the suffering that was going to befall them. And He who heard the pleas of the Ninevites, shall hear our prayers too and put an end to this pandemic. Amen.

Picture of Christians attending Sunday worship in Medhanialem Orthodox church while practicing social distancing.

A bit from kore

Date: April 14, 2020

We received the following message from Selam this week:

We are communicating with the families and they are in good condition, we have provided food to all families. Families now can stay home and take care of their children.

We have been successful in filling the water tankers (between 15,000 to 25, 000 liters) in three different places for residents of Kore. The water is refilled every 3 days.

[About the state of the country:]

The COVID19 Ethiopia State of Emergency (#SoE) has been declared on April 3, 2020. Ethiopia has prohibited companies from laying off workers and terminating employment in measures introduced as part of a state of emergency to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The rules announced also ban meetings of more than four people for religious, government and other organizations, including political gatherings.

The community of Kore is well informed about the necessary measures that should be taking  to avoid the spread of the virus.

An update from selam

Date: April 6, 2020

Scarcity of water and soap

It is interesting to see that in 2020, at a time when groundbreaking technology and innovation is underway, the majority of the world is being taught how to wash their hands. Since Ethiopia confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus on March 13, 2020, there have been nationwide efforts to prevent its spread. With the majority of the population below the poverty line and depending on daily interactions to earn a living, public health professionals have estimated the number of cases to increase dramatically within the next few weeks. Many measures are being undertaken to prevent that and one of these is promoting hand hygiene. It is common knowledge that one of the effective ways to prevent the transmission of the COVID-19 virus is proper and frequent hand washing. It has now become a commonality to see officials and celebrities advocate to the world on the issue of hand washing by using different approaches from ranging nationwide campaigns to viral video challenges. This has created awareness among the public about the significance of proper hand hygiene. But the problem has a deeper root than merely lack of awareness. 

In Ethiopia, where there is severe shortage of water, suffering from frequent discontinuations of pipeline water distribution, this message of hand washing is a futile outcry. The majority of Ethiopians look at the nationwide hand washing messages and go home to find no water in their pipes. This, combined with the sudden increment in the price of soaps and the sudden extinction of disinfectants from the country, has become a double curse. 40% of the population does have access to water and for the rest discontinuation of pipeline water distribution is the reality on the ground.

It is true that while much effort has been made on advocacy, not much groundwork has been done to ensure access to water to citizens. Water scarcity isn’t a new problem to our country. And it can’t be expected that drastic changes can be brought overnight. But this doesn’t change the fact that while the COVID-19 virus is spreading like wildfire, the majority of our population can’t wash and protect themselves and their families.

That is why we have taken steps to tackle this nationwide problem. We have set up a water tanker that holds 25,000 Liters so that the Kore community can readily have access to clean water. In order to minimize crowding around this water source, numbers have been assigned to each household. When these numbers are called in order, individuals come turn by turn to fill their containers with water from the tanker. In addition to this, liquid soap and disinfectants have been distributed to households. By doing this, we hope to ensure that the spread of the virus can be hampered in this community. 

 

Susceptible communities 

Ethiopia, as most other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, is faced with many infectious and tropical diseases that have been controlled or eradicated from the rest of the world. There are numerous cases of HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Leprosy and Leishmania- which are some of the diseases that aren’t of public health concern to most other countries but those which continue to plague us. This, in addition to the ‘Western’ diseases like Hypertension and Diabetes our population is faced with, and coupled with underlying malnutrition, severely lowers the immunity of our population.

The Kore community isn’t an exception to this truth. In fact, this community is at a higher risk to developing these diseases due to the dire living conditions and environment. These communities, who have already suffered greatly due to chronic and lifetime, are now being faced with yet another challenge.

The COVID-19 virus, which affects people of all Nations, gender and age, is especially severe on those with underlying health conditions. Most of these people aren’t receiving optimal treatment for their chronic problems and are at a very high risk for contracting and dying from this disease. A weakened immunity cannot fight against this novel virus and co-morbidities serve to further increase its severity. 

In addition to this, these people are daily laborers, and depend on going out and scavenging for reusable materials on a daily basis to make a living. This further predisposes them to acquiring this virus. Once it makes its way to such a tightly knit and low socio-demographic community, the virus will spread like wildfire. That is why we are employing preventive measures to stop it before it starts. Because once it does, not much can be done. We are doing a lot of advocacy and awareness creation on the importance of self isolation, especially in those with underlying medical conditions. It is true that while only God can protect our community and our country from this virus, what we do every day with the wisdom He has instilled in us matters greatly. That is why we all need to take collective steps to combat this virus.

 

The Social and economic impacts of the virus

Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, with a population of more than 100 million. In addition to this population density, the fact that our society exists in a communal state makes the implementation of social isolation a big challenge. Physical contact is a major means of how we express our feelings; by greeting with kisses on the cheeks, close hugs and enthusiastic handshakes. Most of our day to day activities are also based on social interactions and gatherings. From our daily coffee gatherings and our traditional saving and cooperation groups ‘equb’ and ‘edir’ to our unique eating habits from the same plate whereby loved ones feed each other in the form of ‘gursha’, it can be clearly seen that the core values of our community lies in cooperation through good and bad times. 

Our churches and mosques are where we regularly go to for spiritual as well as social purposes.  Our children play on a common field for the entire neighborhood; we buy our goods and groceries from bustling and overcrowded markets. Our weddings are occasions for the gathering of multitudes, with feasts and celebrations that span days; even our funerals are attended by hundreds who show up to send off the departed. Christenings, birthdays, holidays and spiritual pilgrimages bring hundreds or even thousands together on a regular basis. Communal toilets and showers as well as shared water sources are some of the other reasons why our community gathers. Our main means of transportation are buses and taxis that are packed with passengers, often way over passenger limit. Waiting in long lines is a daily activity for us starting from bakery queues to taxi and bank queues. 

Hence, it can be clearly seen that the concept of social distancing can’t be easily implemented in our society. In the relatively poorer communities like Kore, social interactions are even more crucial for day to day survivals. That is why we started giving intensive education on the absolute importance of social distancing in order to combat the Corona virus. We hope that through education which is continuous and evidence based, attitude and practice shift can be attained. 

Social distancing doesn’t only have a social impact. The immense economic impact it exerts on our society needs to be kept in mind as well. Most of our communities, especially those residing in the Kore area, depend on their daily hustles as a source of livelihood. A day of not working translates to a day without food. Several days of not working have a far deeper effect such as eviction. That is why despite the common wisdom being preached all around the country to stay put at home, the majority is not complying. The imminent risk of starvation outweighs the possibility of being infected with a virus and hence people go out in search for daily income.

That is why we saw the need to intervene in addition to simply advising the community to stay put. Empty instructions with no means of achieving them are not and will not be effective. We provided each household with 2 months worth food stock supply. This was done in an effort to ensure that they didn’t need to go out daily to bring home food. We believe and hope that this simple act can make a difference and serves as an input in our nationwide effort to battle the dreaded coronavirus. 

Teaching hand washing

Date: March 22, 2020

Today, Minister Selam had a brief meeting with the parents of our scholars.  The parents/ guardians sat apart from each other and no hand shaking was allowed. Selam conducted a practical hand washing session and general informational panel regarding the COVID -19.

She informed the mothers that our weekly group sessions with the parents are going to be delayed until we get clearance to host meetings by the government.

The families went home empowered and taking a role as ambassadors in their neighborhood.

GETTING Water and supplies

Date: March 20, 2020

International Samaritan’s Ethiopian team collaborated with the people of Kore to implement our initial relief plan. This is what Selam Terefe, our country director in Ethiopia, told us about the efforts:

“With some help, we were able to bring 3 trucks of water to both provide water to families and fill up the water tanker we had at the community shower and toilet compound. To avoid people coming in groups, we asked them to line their jerry cans and come to collect water one by one. We were worried that we would be facing panic in the community, but I am thrilled to report that there was no challenge and the people collaborated. 

We bought disinfectant and distributed to the people. Yeshiwas (one of our team members) lined up for 4 hours to get disinfectant and managed to get a few litres. In God’s will we will get the remaining requested disinfectant tomorrow. We also bought liquid hand soap, which we were able to distribute to the community, and gave our remaining gloves and face masks to our volunteers to use as they do community outreach programs.

We were able to find a way to explain coronavirus despite low literacy rates: We found and compiled flyers that have pictorial explanation about Coronavirus, which explain how they can take care of themselves. Our volunteer team took the initiative to educate their communities in presentations, passing the information to those who don’t otherwise have reliable information.

Our other Selam (Minister Selam) sends us verses from the bible to our group message on telegram which keeps us all at peace.”

Updates by country

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