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Ethiopia: Sponsor network gives lifeline under pandemic

Ethiopian single mother Zahra Mudesir lost her only source of income when the coronavirus put paid to her brother’s construction job. She is an HIV positive patient and also undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

But she’s found a lifeline via a monthly donation from the United States, part of a scheme being administered by an Addis Ababa doctor who links sponsors with local families impoverished by the epidemic.

“I don’t have no money to pay my rent, I don’t have a job as I am still a hospital outpatient. So, this assistance has given me a lot of relief,” Zahra admitted.

Zahra Mudesir with her children. Image credit Reuters via Youtube

The 33-year-old’s face breaks into a shy smile as she, daughter Hayat, 12, and seven-year-old son Kalid sit outside their mud-brick home and chat on-screen with their sponsor, Washington D.C.-based nurse Bethlehem Mekonnen.

The laptop belongs to Bilal Shukur, the doctor who helped launch the “My Family” programme in May and of which he says Zahra, whose husband left her while she was pregnant with Kalid, is one of around 900 beneficiaries.

Ethiopia, like several African nations, has no social nor a welfare security system.

No job means no food, and while the medical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has been relatively contained in the African country with around 5,000 cases and 78 deaths, many more families have been left impoverished by the dramatic economic slowdown the disease has brought.

Thus, the 2000 birr (just under $60) per month that Bethlehem and other sponsors provide represent the edge difference between starvation and survival.

“It’s a social safety net,” Bilal explained to the media. “That family will consider the needy family as their own.”

Sponsors can be individuals or organisations and are encouraged to provide beneficiaries with psychological as well as financial support.

Many, including Bethlehem, are part of the Ethiopian diaspora.

“Even though we all are struggling everywhere in the world people are suffering way more than we are over here,” she said. “So, we need to be responsible to help and support as much as possible.”

($1 = 34.3100 birr)

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