~ by Laura Ieraci, Catholic News Service
In Alitena, a remote village in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, the Daughters of Charity host a traditional coffee ceremony for women in the community. The conversation, however, is unlike the usual spirited conversations at a coffee ceremony.
Here, the women gather to support each other in their grief, mourning and trauma in the wake of the terror and violence that has raged in the region since November 2020, when war broke out between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian armed forces.
Bringing together the affected families, including the immediate community members, enable them to comfort each other, mourn together and pray to God to enable them to cope with the trauma, said Sr. Lemlem Redda, who heads a spiritual group counseling project.
Trauma and grief are rife in the villages across the region, devastated by a war that has killed between 50,000 and 100,00 an additional 150,000 to 200,000 from starvation and more than 100,000 from lack of medical attention, according to estimates provided by researchers at Ghent University in Belgium.
The entire Tigray region has been facing food scarcity for months, exacerbated by the Ethiopian government’s initial refusal to allow humanitarian aid into the region.
But the war in Ukraine, ongoing instability in Tigray and global inflation – peaking at 43% for food items in Ethiopia as of April – have placed additional burdens on humanitarian and pastoral efforts in Ethiopia, where hardships once contained regionally are extending throughout the country.
The war in Ukraine has only worsened the situation, said Argaw Fantu, who directs the work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency, in Ethiopia, citing the rising fuel prices and their impact on the cost of all consumable products and the transport of goods.
Sanctions against Russia and Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s seaports have limited exports of wheat, gas and oil, affecting supply worldwide. However, countries already experiencing food scarcity, such as Ethiopia, are hit hardest.
At the end of the general audience on June 1, Pope Francis appealed for an end to the blockade of grain exports from Ukraine, “on which the lives of millions of people depend, especially in the poorest countries.”