Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

Sarah-Bardon-with-Tsegaye-Mulugeta-in-Ethiopia-2874018They are a proud people determined to change their country with your help they could do so much more

More than 30 years have passed since a deadly drought hit Ethiopia, killing half a million people and sparking Live Aid.

Its turmoil has been devastating with famine, war and bad governance all playing their part in the 1970s and 80s.

Fast-forward three decades and the country is still underdeveloped and millions continue to live in poverty.

But the current situation is brighter than one would expect with foreign investment dribbling into Ethiopia.

Its people are determined and proud and the country is keen to shrug off its old image and align it with a more realistic one.

GOAL’s Country Director John Rynne first came to Ethiopia 1991 and has seen it radically transformed since then.

He said: “It is a very proud people, it is a lovely place to live. Frankly, the people are very generous and kind. There are no security problems in the country.

“There are substantial investments in electricity supply and water supply. But there is a very strong image of Ethiopia being completely impoverished, extreme levels of malnutrition, extremely backward – and I know there are efforts to realign that image with a better reality.

“There is a massive difference from when I first came here.

“Trips that would taken two and a half days in 1991 now take half a day.”

Ethiopia has a population of more than 80 million people – 15 times the size of Ireland.

While the future looks a lot brighter, the country still faces tough challenges.

Much of the it is subjected to erratic rainfall leading to chronic food shortages in many parts.

The economy revolves around agriculture, which in turn relies on rainfall.

This means between 10-12 million people are likely to need support to meet their daily needs.

It also faces a population boom, with some experts estimating it could double by 2030.

But as you drive through the capital Addis Ababa, few problems are more obvious or heart-rending than that of street children.

It is estimated up to 100,000 kids live on the streets of the capital with the problem and its effects spreading throughout the country.

GOAL is keen to stress nobody chooses to spend their nights sleeping rough but many find themselves there because of family death, conflict or abuse.

Our girl Sarah Bardon with Tsegaye Mulugeta in Ethiopia
Collins Photo Agency

Some kids leave home in search of a better future but find themselves trapped in a life without shelter or food.

They sometimes fall into a life of drug use or prostitution in a desperate bid to make money.

Often new kids on the streets are targeted by organised criminal gangs and used for sexual exploitation while 10% are trafficked in specifically for this purpose.

The GOAL-funded ChildSpace programme is one way these children can find the help they need to work towards a better life for themselves.

By providing simple things like a place to shower as well as education and training, the scheme helps youngsters get the skills they need to get off the streets for good.

Drogheda man John, 48, said: “Rather than judging them, we see them as micro-entrepreneurs who can use their skills to feed and look after themselves and look after their families as well.

“Ethiopia has the same issues as most African countries. The Ethiopian people can be very accepting when they get to know them.

“People are initially wary of them, they have misconceptions, they are viewed to be thieves and rogues and you need to be careful of them.

“I don’t condemn Ethiopia for that, all countries including our own are guilty of misconceptions.”

The programme works with kids who live and work on the streets of the capital offering them medical treatment, education and training packages for youngsters who want to set up their own businesses.

The money donated by Irish people is used to help fund these vital programmes and this Christmas, the Irish Mirror has teamed up with GOAL to drum up some cash.

We visited the country and witnessed the exceptional work the charity is doing on the ground.

Money generated by you can help take children off the streets or assist in providing clean water to a school or a family.

Ethiopia may not be in a crisis situation but it still faces extreme and tough challenges.

John said he understands people at home are living through their own financial crisis but promised any money donated will be well used.

He added: “If they do react the support will be much better managed and the impact will be much greater than it was 20 years back.

“The overall impact is much better. As well as dealing with the symptoms, there is much more effort to dealing with the underlying causes.

“That’s the frustration when I go home that people feel a lot of money is spent on the symptoms so you fix the pothole but don’t mend the road.

“But Ethiopia, with GOAL’s help, is looking to fix the whole picture.”

By Rasaas