Our Love In Action: Cabrini Ministries Ethiopia Community Outreach and Centre of Life Rehabilitation
It is impossible to forget the gaze of a child who is hungry, or the desperation of a mother trying to secure her child’s next meal. The need for food sustainability is primal, yet the ability to do so depends on many complex, interdependent factors. Mothers and children in developing contexts like ours, are often left alone to face this reality with its cruel implications.
By our nature as Cabrinian, we as Cabrini Ministries Ethiopia (Cabrini Ethiopia) are vocationally called to be “bearers of the love of Jesus Christ to the world”, especially the most vulnerable mothers and children in our Ethiopian context. Every statistic of a starving child in our catchment area is a life to be served and loved through our daily interventions. Our malnutrition program follows the World Health Organization (WHO) standards, with a fundamentally Cabrinian approach.
Every child and mother enrolled in the program is given compassionate care based on their individual needs and conditions. We go the extra mile to provide services through our program especially for the most remote villages with limited accessibility. Our team parks the vehicle where the road ends and walks for hours to reach some of the families in need of our interventions. Every intervention is a journey with each beneficiary and their family. Our programs are designed to cater for all individual circumstances of every child we serve.
Why are we in Ethiopia?
Cabrini Ethiopia is a Catholic, Cabrinian, faith-based, community organization based 7 hours south of Addis Ababa. Ethiopia is named one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, however that does not portray the realities of the most vulnerable. About 5.8 million children under 5 years (38%) are suffering from chronic malnutrition (stunting or low height-for-age), according to the most recent Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa with a current population of over 112 million people (World Bank, 2019). With a fertility rate of 4.2 children born per woman (UNICEF 2017), the country is projected to be among the top 8 countries in the world with the greatest population increase between 2017 and 2050, with the total population estimated to rise to 190.9 million. Currently, Ethiopia ranks 136 out of 165 countries in progress toward meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Sustainable Development Report, Sachs et al. 2021). Moreover, 25% of female deaths are related to pregnancy or childbearing, and 1 in 15 children will die before the age of 5 years.
Our Integrated Mother and Child Health Intervention
Our interventions with vulnerable mothers and children is more than just working towards the SDGs, as we are responding to the call in the Gospel of Mathew… ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. (Mathew 25:40 NIV). Knowing that every child is made in the image of God and fully represents Jesus, so that anything that is done for that child is done for Jesus himself. It is so painful to see Jesus in a vulnerable situation represented by a child dying of hunger, crying with no tears due to dehydration, and parents waiting for the their child’s soul to leave their little, sick body.
Our outreach team, inspired by Mother Cabrini, enters into a home which is waiting for the looming death of their loved one, and our team dare to strike the first spark towards the beacon of hope. These home visits are initially met with rejection and hostility by the family, but this changes after our team’s compassionate and loving interaction. We undertake a homestead assessment where our team determine the need of the family, other underlying factors contributing to the situation of the household, and an assessment of the family’s path to potential, which we find is a springboard to rekindling hope.
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and food. If one of you says to them, `Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”— James 2: 15-16.
Inspired by this scripture, our team starts to explore options and develop an intervention plan. The plan starts with dealing with any child in immediate danger, which normally leads to the child being referred to the medical stabilization center at St. Mary’s Primary Hospital, Dubbo,n which is run by the MSC. Once the child has been stabilized and rehydrated, they are admitted to our Center of Life Rehabilitation facility for approximately 2 weeks, depending on their response and needs for recovery.
Once the child has been admitted to our Centre, the mother is introduced to our livelihood program as well as health education. This part of the program is aimed at ensuring that the family understands what is going on with their child’s welfare, and we work to empower them to be able to support their child’s continued growth and development upon discharge. Once the child is discharged the outreach team continues to do follow-up to ensure that the child does not relapse and that the family continues with their livelihood activities towards economic independence (as contained in our Mission statement).
In the Center, the child receives medical care and 3 highly nutritious meals a day, with snacks in between meals. Our Charism is always based on action and service. The smiles of the recovering children remind us of Jesus smiling at us. The families benefit from our family nutrition packs and emergency food items. For them to benefit from this program beyond 4 weeks, there should be signs of economic activity being initiated at the family level with the support from our livelihood team.
Our Tenacious Approach
Unfortunately, the local government continues to feel threatened with our interventions and continuously frustrates our work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. We think this is because our intervention appears to make them look like inadequate. Even that does not discourage our teams since we know that our intervention is in collaboration with the world’s fight against hunger and it is our calling. Our foundation has been set on a un unshaken charism of the MSCs, cemented by the spirit of Mother Cabrini, and it never relents even in the most challenging times. With COVID-19 challenging the global community and funds dwindling, we continue to provide the service since we know that our call to love leaves indelible marks on the hearts of those we touch. We continuously remind our staff that even a shortage of money will not stop us from loving our clients, since it is love that inspires action and support not the other way round. We are moved by compassion just like Jesus Christ when he saw the hungry multitudes and began to feed them. Our role as a faith-based organization might change its form over the years, but the mission will continue to serve those who need it most into the future. The world doesn’t need only money, but mostly loving and compassionate hearts and so is Cabrini Ethiopia.
In our community, there is an undefined culture that if you are economically poor, people tend to illtreat and disrespect you. The end effect can be that those who are economically poor feel they deserve to be treated inhumanely, as if their human dignity doesn’t matter. Cabrini Ethiopia continues to see Jesus in all mothers and children serve and our staff are trained to speak with respect and love to those who don’t know the meaning of love. Our quest to continue improving the quality of our services, is aimed at ensuring that even the most vulnerable people receive the best quality and free service. The MSC and all our donors give us love and support as an organization, so that we might replicate it to the most vulnerable. Cabrini Ethiopia was loved first and so it has to live by loving those entrusted to it.
Within a changing global landscape, Cabrini Ethiopia continues to review its strategy every 2 years to ensure that our programming stays aligned to our Vision and Values, and the general Mission of the MSC, while responding to the dynamic needs of our community. This process is supported by a community needs analysis, and prioritization of our 3 response areas. We continuously work with community partners and other NGOs, directing our focus remains to covering the gaps which no one else is addressing. All our services are tailored to support and empower the most vulnerable mothers and children, who would otherwise be ignored and have no opportunity to care for themselves.
We are in the business of witnessing to the free redemptive love of Jesus to change the lives of the most vulnerable through partnering for a future and hope.
2020 Nutrition Summary
2568 Emergency nutrition support parcels distributed
214 Children received nutritional Rehabilitation
98 Mothers enrolled in the end hunger livelihood support program.