Set up a regular donation to Mary's Meals until Friday, 31 May and your first three payments will be tripled thanks to a generous supporter, up to £100,000!
Mary's Meals Founder Magnus (right) in Ethiopia meeting a community member

A message from Ethiopia

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, Founder of Mary's Meals, reflects on his recent visit to the Tigray region of Ethiopia

Published on

“People who are made in the image and likeness of God should not live like this. We live worse than animals. We were business owners – now reduced to begging to survive,” says Berhan Haileselassie.

He stands tallest amidst a tightly packed crowd of people; somehow dignified despite the worst circumstances I can imagine.

Unbelievably, 220 people live in this former classroom. They’ve been here for three years, having fled their homes during the war. Blankets are strung up as makeshift walls – a futile attempt at creating some kind of privacy for the families here.

“Each day we take plastic bags out on to the streets and beg for food. Seven people here have already died of hunger.”

Children and an adult outside Gendet Primary School, Ethiopia

This story of a proud people reduced to begging is repeated over and over across Tigray. A catastrophic famine, ignored by the world, is in danger of unfolding here. Less than half of the children are currently in school and each day more drop out because of hunger – indeed, a quarter of schools here are at risk of closing. Instead of going to school to gain an education that can be their ladder out of poverty one day, these children are forced to spend their days searching for food.

In eastern Tigray, Tsadken Tesfay has been long reduced to begging for her family’s survival. 

“People here are always very kind to me, but many of the people who used to help me are now also begging to survive.” 

Her children are not in school but when they heard Mary’s Meals was serving food in a school in their area, they walked there and asked children who were eating in the playground for help. 

Two girls from the primary school, Bethlehem and Amlak, heard them and compassionately began to share some of their meal with them. Other children began doing the same for others who were desperate, despite their own need.

The only joy and hope I saw here this week was in those schools where large plates of Mary’s Meals were being served to queues of smiling, laughing children. In these schools, there is an opposite trend, with the numbers of children enrolled increasing.

Children eating Mary's Meals at Beati-Akor Primary School, Ethiopia

I have never seen a situation so urgently crying out to us to expand our programme to reach more schools as quickly as possible. We are ready to do this, but we need your help to reach these desperately hungry children.

These days in Tigray I have encountered some of the most dignified people I have ever met. Many of whom have joined the ranks of beggars. But this is not a hopeless situation. We can do something – please share some of what you have so that we might feed more children here. Before it’s too late.