The people of Tigray very urgently need our help.


Across the Tigray region of Ethiopia, brutal fighting has forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes and now millions are living in fear of starvation. The region’s capital, Mekelle, is being overwhelmed by displaced, destitute and traumatised people arriving every day. Many of them are unaccompanied children who have lost their parents.

Mary’s Meals has been working with a trusted partner in Ethiopia for many years and together we are ready to provide assistance to those who need it most as this dire situation continues to unfold.

Please give what you can.

A message from Magnus, our Founder and CEO

The suffering caused by Covid can feel all-pervading and relentless. It is sometimes hard to know how to react to unfamiliar, unwelcome experiences such as our separation from loved ones, financial hardship, children unable to attend school, and plans being repeatedly torn up. Yesterday I learnt a lot through a call with someone who is suffering all those things more intensely than I could ever imagine. It was a conversation that humbled me and revealed to me, in new ways, the beauty and importance of Mary’s Meals.

This call was with a friend – from a trusted partner organisation in Ethiopia – who shall remain nameless for her own safety. I managed to speak to her despite the communication blackout that has largely cut off her region of Tigray, since conflict erupted there in November. She is a dear friend who has been involved in serving Mary’s Meals to impoverished children in Tigray for some years. Our call was frequently interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

She began by describing the unimaginable horror being experienced around her. The people of Tigray are living in fear of imminent starvation. The brutal fighting, taking place away from the eyes of the world, has forced many to flee their homes. The city of Mekelle is being overwhelmed by displaced people arriving with nothing at all. Many of them are unaccompanied children who have lost their parents. Probably amongst those children are some who used to eat Mary’s Meals at school, because before this conflict we were serving 24,230 children in the region each day.

The lives of those children have now been changed beyond recognition. Therefore, our plans have too. For now, it is just about doing whatever we can to help keep those children alive in a city where everyone is clinging to survival.

“Meeting the basic needs of these people is number one priority,” she advised as we discussed our emergency response. “Because we see people without food, without shelter, without medical supplies, and if they are not supported with these basic necessities then their fate is obviously to die. I mean, practically, if there are no other supporters, these people have no chance of living. It’s a matter of life and death.”

She talked about the many destitute people looking to them for help, how they have already given away what they have, and how, since it is very difficult to withdraw money from the bank and very little food is available in the city, “there are no longer rich or poor in Mekelle. We are all in it together.” She described her friends who are doctors, trying their best to treat queues of patients every day without even having enough to eat themselves. She explained that, even in the absence of aid deliveries from outside Mekelle, she has been working with a committee of charitable organisations in the city to collect donations of clothes and blankets to give to those arriving without anything.

The people of Tigray very urgently need our help – but they are not waiting passively or indulging in self-pity, despite the horror of their situation. Those who can are acting heroically to support others around them. Around 4.5 million people are in urgent need of food aid. A recent UN report also expressed the fear that Covid is running rampant amongst the displaced population who are without adequate accommodation or healthcare.

This pandemic is stealing many things from us, but it can never rob us of our charity. And while we continue our own relentless local battles with Covid, we cannot forget our poorest brothers and sisters and their desperate fight for survival. This is not a time to look inwards. “We are all in it together” our friend said about the people of Mekelle, but she could have said it about the whole world too.

“You know there is a saying,” she continued, “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” Mary’s Meals have always been our friends. In all situations we really feel that Mary’s Meals is a member of our family … who is trying to reassure us with their love and concern and that is very, very important.

“So I would ask that you please ask people to pray for us. Oh my Lord! Sorry, there is a lot of shooting right now, I don’t know why. I really feel so touched, so much loved, and so much cared for. I am really grateful to all at Mary’s Meals – your support and your love means a lot to us at this moment especially.”

The faithfulness of Mary’s Meals, that moved our dear friend to tears, is actually your faithfulness. I have seen it in startling ways this past year too. Even in the midst of all of your new challenges you’ve kept giving and sharing what you have so that children might eat. Because of you, we have kept our promise to more than 1.6 million children even while many are out of school because of Covid. And, because of you, we have been able to add many thousands more children to our programme during 2020.

I trust that at this time, too, as the needs of the world’s poorest people become more acute than ever, you will not forget them. That together we will show our love for the children, and for our friends in need in Ethiopia, where right now this trusted partner can use our gifts to help those facing starvation. With her, I thank you with all my heart for your support, your friendship and your love.

God bless,

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow

Our response

The situation in Tigray is truly desperate. With your support, our partners (the Daughters of Charity) are working under extremely difficult circumstances to bring relief and emergency aid to internally displaced people. Though traumatised themselves, our courageous colleagues have been able to distribute food parcels to around 3,000 people. These people, who had to flee their homes with nothing, are sheltering in school buildings and enduring horrendous conditions while violence continues across the region. Thousands more children and vulnerable adults urgently need assistance.

Our partner told us: “I’m afraid the refugees are increasing. I have never in my life ever seen or heard the injustice, the evil acts that are being done in the lives of our people … there has never been anything as bad as what we see and witnessed, honestly. People are so traumatised. It is a time that we need your support and prayers.

“When we were distributing food, for the first time I was able to see a little bit of joy on their faces. I was able to see some hope. And people were so grateful. Please, let all of those who are helping in any way possible know that we are grateful.”

There is so much more still to do. Please give what you can.

In uncertain times, your generosity is needed more than ever.

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