Cathedral priest sees the shameful reality of Ethiopian poverty

Recently Fr Martin Whelan CC at Galway Cathedral travelled to see projects supported by Trócaire in Ethiopia in advance of the Lenten campaign 2015. This is what he experienced.

Fr Martin Whelan pictured with siblings of Mahlet, who is the face of the 2015 Trocaire Box.

Fr Martin Whelan pictured with siblings of Mahlet, who is the face of the 2015 Trocaire Box.

Hunger and malnutrition in a world of plenty is an unacceptable and shameful reality of the 21st century. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to have seen first-hand Trócaire’s work on our behalf in Ethiopia. It is important to be able to report back not only on the problems facing people there but the difference donations from people here at home are making.”

The Trócaire Lenten campaign this year is about the struggle of communities in some of the world’s poorest countries in the face of the challenges posed by climate change.

Increasingly extreme and erratic weather patterns are destroying the lives and livelihoods of rural families and communities across the developing world and these communities are finding it ever more difficult to cope with this new reality.

Climate change is now one of the dominant causes of poverty in many of the communities where Trócaire works. In the last three years alone there has been approximately 30 million people across Asia and Africa forced from their homes or facing starvation because of drought and flooding. And these numbers continue to rise. The poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world are struggling to cope with rising temperatures and increases in droughts, floods and storms.

In Africa alone the population at risk because of increased water scarcity is projected to be between 75-250 million by 2020 and 350-600 million by the 2050s.

I travelled to one particular community in Ethiopia called Sebeya in the northern province of Tigray. Sebeya is the village of Mahlet Ali, the little girl who appears on this year’s Trócaire box.

It was inspirational to witness the fantastic work of Trócaire in Sebeya. Trócaire is helping local communities to build irrigation schemes and reservoirs that enable small farmers to cope will irregular rain fall. Northern Ethiopia has a very harsh climate and landscape and without Trócaire many families would not be able to make a living off their land.

It is extremely important to help families stay on their land as there is very little industry and there are little or no opportunities for safe emigration.

As an Irish man I was very proud to see an Irish organisation doing much great work. I was particularly impressed by the way Trócaire employs local people and works with local organisation so that skills are developed for the community to work on their own. This method of working makes Trócaire one of the most successful and ethical charities in providing long term sustainable development in Ethiopian communities.

That is why this Lenten campaign is so important. With your support Trócaire is helping communities to improve their farming by introducing irrigation systems on their land to combat drought; helping farmers develop alternative farming methods to increase production; introducing small business and cooperative models for farmers to make the most of their land and livestock and develop new sources of income; providing food and emergency relief to communities during periods of extreme droughts; supporting communities to be better prepared and able to cope with the increasing frequency of both droughts and floods.

A staggering 22,000 children die every day from poverty-related causes. An estimated 870 million people experience chronic under-nourishment. This is through an increase in cases of diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition, predominantly in developing countries.

Let’s make this Lent the time to stand up and make sure that the biggest problem facing our world today is recognised and those most affected are given the support they need to avert disaster.


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