Supporting Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Ethiopia

Helping vulnerable Ethiopian children is one of hundreds of ways in which Medical Mission Sisters around the world try to be a healing presence to others today.

In Ethiopia today, about 5.4 million children are orphaned, living and working in the streets. Sister Senait Mengesha, in her work as the Social Rehabilitation Unit Coordinator of the Ethiopian Catholic Secretariat (ECS), is helping to respond to their needs.

“There are 36 orphanages run by the Catholic Church supporting about 5,000 orphans, and 31,000 children are supported at the community-based project level,” Sister Senait explains. “Some of these community-based projects are combined with pre-school education and school feeding programs.”

With the availability of anti-retroviral drugs, some of the AIDS orphans are living longer than expected, and have started school at a much later age. Sister Senait says, “The need for careful planning as to how to rehabilitate them and reunite them with the community is now a timely issue.”

Sister’s ECS Unit is also working with families at the parish level, to enhance family values and “lessen the pull and push factors at the household level that lead children to street life.” Volunteers from parishes in Addis Ababa were identified by the ECS and trained by the African Child Policy Forum. Each parish has a four-month action plan, to create awareness concerning child abuse and neglect, and to eventually create a means of social support for children in great difficulty.

Sister Senait feels strongly that, “Children with inadequate or no family support need material and moral guidance and support. They have the right to survival, growth, development, protection, and participation.”

August 15, 2010