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Mahlet in Ethiopia

The Voices of Tigray: Nowhere to Turn

Meet Mahlet, a 12-year-old girl from Tigray, in Ethiopia, whose future is currently determined by whether she has anything to eat.

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Mahlet in Ethiopia

Ara Primary School in Tigray, Ethiopia, is a shadow of its former self. Once a thriving, bustling education hub, it is now much more subdued with emptier classrooms and quieter corridors. There are far fewer teachers at the school than before; some left to work elsewhere as student numbers dwindled, while others went to fight in the war and didn’t return. There are also around 300 students who didn’t come back to school when the conflict eased. 

Staff say that some former students are now working as housemaids or looking after cattle. One teacher tells us: “Rather than dying of hunger, they chose to be a servant instead.” And as the situation worsens, they fear even more children could be lost to similar fates, as the battle with hunger becomes too vast to overcome. 

One of the students here is 12-year-old Mahlet, but her attendance is in constant jeopardy because of a lack of food at home, and there is currently no school feeding program to support her. Since no meals are served at school, Mahlet says her mother “worries all the time” because she has no food to give her. 

Arra Primary School Ethiopia

The pre-teen understands the importance of school, and how much fun she would have there if she didn’t feel such hunger: “School is important because I play with others and learn, and it helps me leave the worries I have at home behind because my mother has no food for me.”

It’s clear no one has been left unscathed by the years of conflict, let alone children. The trauma of the past few years seems to have altered Mahlet’s once joyful and friendly disposition. Her teacher says that she is now shy, overcome with emotion, and cries sometimes when spoken to, so Mahlet’s mental state is also taking its toll on her schoolwork and grades.

When she’s not at school, Mahlet does whatever she can to get out of the house. She says: “I hate sitting at home because there is no food and nothing to prepare. I boil coffee for my mother or help other people who have nobody to help them.”

Those who have returned ask to go home during class as they are too hungry to stay and learn, but when the local community heard that Mary’s Meals was visiting the school, 15 children turned up to register in the span of a few hours. We know that reliable school meal provision will bring many more children back to these classrooms and enable them to take the first steps back to a life with better prospects.

We are fully committed to raising awareness of the desperate need in Tigray and supporting our local partner, Daughters of Charity, to reach even more children with vital meals in the coming weeks and months. 

We know that daily school meals will not only address Mahlet and her classmates’ immediate need for food but also increase their capacity for learning at a time when they desperately need an opportunity to reengage with education. 

Help us to walk alongside communities in Tigray and offer vital sustenance to children who have already suffered so much. You can be a part of bringing the Mary’s Meals school feeding program to Ara Primary School and ensuring these children don’t end up a lost generation.