More details are emerging about the devastating crisis unfolding in Ethiopia as a result of ongoing conflict. Much of the conflict has been centred around the Tigray region, where Mary’s Meals has been working for several years with its trusted partner, to provide meals for vulnerable children in school (and, more recently, at home while schools were closed because of the pandemic).

As a result of the fighting and unrest, a six-month state of emergency was declared back in November 2020. With access to electricity, internet and phone services severely disrupted, keeping in touch with our colleagues on the ground has proved challenging.

We are continuing to monitor the situation and we are working with our partner to identify ways we can provide effective, essential support to those whose lives have been uprooted by this crisis.

The situation in Tigray was already challenging and the Mary’s Meals feeding program has always provided a lifeline for struggling families. When Covid-19 closed the schools, we worked with our partner to ensure children could still be fed at a time when they were more vulnerable than ever.

Our partner in the region, sent this message for supporters in the summer: “The price of staple food and everything has significantly increased due to inflation, disruption of supplies and measures to restrict movement in response to Covid-19. This has led to a decline in food intake and nutrition, high levels of under-nutrition among children in many families. School closures and restrictions on movement has caused the disruption of children’s routines and social support while also placing new stress on parents and caregivers who may have to find new childcare options or sacrifice work.

“Needless to say, the distribution of the food and the awareness programme on pandemic prevention measures to the families of the school children together with basic sanitary items has significantly contributed to the effort of preventing the pandemic and providing care for the targeted school children. This is only possible because of the very generous and kind donations we are seeing from Mary’s Meals and everyone who contributes their acts of charity and love.”

Now, alongside the severe threats already faced by communities in Tigray, there are growing concerns about the potential spread of Covid-19. Our thoughts and prayers are with the children and communities we serve in Ethiopia, our friends and partners, and all those affected by the ongoing conflict.