|   Posted: October 13, 2022

Two mothers in northern Ethiopia tell their stories of struggle and survival — and the blessings that God has brought their way through the local church and Compassion center.

“My Kids Would Have Starved”: Families Rescued From the Brink

Two mothers in northern Ethiopia tell their stories of struggle and survival — and the blessings that God has brought their way through the local church and Compassion center.

Story and Photos by Tigist Gizachew
Zere and her children hold food given by the center

Internal conflict, soaring inflation and extreme weather have left the 120 million people in Ethiopia in harm’s way, overshadowing the promise of flourishing developmental initiatives.

The conflict has claimed many lives, displaced even more families and destabilized the whole nation. Added to that, the global food crisis has left many in a dire condition.

In a northern town, two mothers, Zere and Fatuma, are receiving support from a Compassion-assisted Frontline Church Partner.

Solomon, the center director, shares how his center is striving to help the most vulnerable children and families. And Zere and Fatuma tell their stories of struggle and survival — and the blessings that God has brought their way through the local church and Compassion center.

Zere: “We were caught unprepared.”

Rediet and her mother, Zere, stand outside their home

Zere and her daughter, Rediet, who is in Compassion’s program.


The silence was deafening except when bullets rang out. One Saturday morning, we woke up to our town under fire. Though we had heard about fighting in nearby towns, we were caught unprepared. Business came to a standstill. We were barricaded in, and people had no time to withdraw the little money they had at the bank.

No time to stock up on food. No time to flee. It was too late to do anything.

I was scared for our lives. How long would the fighters stay? Where would I hide my children? How long would the food last? Where could we run to … and was it too late to try? Where would I get money to travel or even simply to buy food?

So many unanswered questions.

I was thankful for the 25kg bag of flour I had received from my daughter Rediet’s Compassion center a couple of days before the takeover. I told my children not to worry about food.

But to my dismay, one late afternoon, soldiers came and took everything we owned — mattress, clothes, utensils … and the flour I relied on to feed my children.

Until that day, I was optimistic. But my hope vanished when the flour was taken from me.

We quickly started running out of food. I never imagined a day would come when I would look for scraps of food in the house. I boiled a handful of rice and gave my children the rice water as soup for lunch and the cooked rice for dinner. I considered myself lucky to find a handful of lentils on the floor. I cooked it with so much care and fed my children. I was desperate.

People in my neighborhood also shared what they had. Feeding my children and keeping them safe was my priority. It was a dark season — one I never want to experience ever again.

Fatuma: “What is money if it can’t buy anything?”

Fatuma eats a meal with her children

Fatuma eats a meal with her children.


I’m a mother of nine children. Two have passed on, one is married, and six of my children live with me. My husband and I have seen better days — we once had farmlands, livestock and a house. We lost all of it in a fire. Ever since, my husband lost his will to strive for a better life.

I am not one to sit and wallow in my misery. I have worked hard to raise my kids. I have sold diesel, baked injera (a traditional Ethiopian pancake), washed clothes and sold vegetables at the market. The currency was strong then. Now it is nothing. Long gone are the days when I would feed my family with only 200 birr (US $3.80).

My kids used to work after school. The older ones sold plastic bags, and my 22-year-old son, whom I lost during the recent conflict, used to drive a Bajaj (a public transportation motorbike) to cover some household expenses. However, the past few years have been difficult. Food prices have soared. We are barely surviving.

On top of everything else, the conflict was a huge blow for people like us who depend on a daily income.

It is through Nur, my 14-year-old son who is in the Compassion Sponsorship Program, that the family is surviving.

My husband, who works as a guard, has a monthly income of 2,000 birr (US $38). We pay 1,500 birr (US $28) for rent. With six children, the remainder doesn’t last a week. I try to fill in the gaps by working any job that can generate an income.

But that is only possible in a stable environment.

It’s still hard for me to recount how we survived the conflict. Since there was no electricity, I used a stone mill to grind the little wheat I saved and bake pita bread for my children. It was never enough.

After the seizure was over and we resumed our life, we realized the extent of our troubles.

a bowl of grain

Teff grain, the most basic staple food, had doubled in price to 50 birr (US $1) per kg; 1kg of potatoes and onions each sold for 50 birr (US $1); 5 liters of cooking oil went for 1,100 birr (US $21).

I take the little money I have to the market and come back confused and angry with what I could afford. It is a nightmare. What is money if it can’t buy anything?

Food prices keep rising, and I can only buy half the items I used to buy or less. How can I feed my family when my income and the market are horribly unmatched?

Solomon: “Manna sent from Heaven.”

Solomon delivers food staples to Fatuma’s home.

Solomon delivers food staples to Fatuma’s home.


According to the World Food Programme's Ethiopia market watch report, Ethiopia’s average annual food inflation stood at 23.2% in 2020 but rose to 31.3% in 2021 and to 42.4% during the first five months of 2022 (January-May).

Inflation is particularly high in areas affected by conflict. Moreover, devaluation of local currency has fueled the crises. For Frontline Church Partners, the grim reality is unsettling.

Solomon, the local center director, said, “We know the people we serve here at the Compassion center. They were living hand-to-mouth when things were relatively well. For them, this is a trying season. We work to share their burden.”

Solomon and his staff use Compassion’s Disaster Relief Fund to buy food supplies for families severely affected by the shortages.

Solomon said, “The provision of food was like manna. It came at a time we desperately needed support. When I gathered the caregivers and broke the good news to them, the church compound was filled with shouts of joy. Many sobbed uncontrollably. It was like they were allowed to live again. The 50kg bags of teff grain we distributed, along with 5-liter bottles of cooking oil, were truly manna sent from heaven.”

The center has recently distributed its second batch of food supplies, and caregivers are feeding their children, blessing the hands that generously gave in this time of critical need.

Zere said, “I sleep well at night knowing I have food to give to my children. I even share with my neighbors who are in critical need. I bless the day my daughter Rediet joined the program. I have come from the place of having nothing to having plenty — all because of the generosity of the Compassion center. I bless them every time I bake injera.”
Zere feeds her son

Fatuma is equally thankful for God’s provision.

“My world turned upside down without food to feed my family and the loss of my son,” she said. “I’m comforted, not just because of the provision of food but because I know I have people who care for me. Had it not been for the food provision, my kids would have starved. No mother could bear to see her children go hungry.”

For caregivers like Zere and Fatuma, the taste of better days came in the form of food provisions.

Families like theirs are slowly coming out of the fear and trauma of having nothing to feed their children. Both the center staff and the caregivers are praying for better days to come while they enjoy the blessing of having food for their children.

Donate Today

Send “manna” to families like Zere’s and Fatuma’s! Just $50 can feed a family of five for a month amid this global food crisis.