Beneath the Barrels

Friday 8 March 2024

Story summary

Amid heart-wrenching adversity, Welelay, a resilient 28-year-old mother in Tigray, finds herself navigating the tumultuous seas of life with her one-year-old child. Tragedy has struck her family once before, in the early months of the Northern Ethiopia conflict of 2021, when her four-month-old baby was forced to miss out on vaccines and essential healthcare facilities, all casualties of the relentless conflict. The weight of that loss still lingers in Welelay's heart.

Her husband, Yemane, once a devout Diakon within the Orthodox church, was an embodiment of piety and virtue. However, as the turmoil deepened, his mental well-being crumbled, and he slipped into a state of profound disorientation, becoming incapable of providing for his family. Welelay faced a daunting challenge, tasked with caring for her ailing child and her husband, who was steadily deteriorating.

Central Tigray, their home, stood distinct from other regions, its vulnerability exacerbated by severe drought and a stark absence of rainfall during the rainy seasons. The land had borne witness to consecutive droughts, a cruel prelude to the protracted conflict that would soon engulf the region with series of calamities, one more devastating than the last. For Welelay's family, this sequence meant the tragic loss of her first child, deprived of nourishment and proper healthcare, and her husband's descent into unconsciousness, brought about by the relentless advance of conflict, a war that claimed countless lives in their neighboring areas.

With the generous support of the European Union (ECHO), Save the Children and the consortium members initiated a cash distribution program in selected woredas and kebeles across central Tigray, extending its reach to over a thousand households (more than five thousand individuals). Welelay, recognized by her community elders who understood the depth of her struggles, was among the chosen beneficiaries.

An initial sum of 9,200 Ethiopian Birr was provided to Welelay, a lifeline that afforded her the means to procure essential provisions for her survival. Welelay says this cash infusion had allowed her to nourish her surviving child and regain control of her life.


Welelay's story in her own words (Quotes)

"Due to the heavy conflict in our area, all local health infrastructure was damaged. During this time, my firstborn child became very ill, and we were unable to travel long distances for medical care due to the ongoing conflict. His survival would have been more likely if treatment could have been provided to him".

"The conflict negatively impacted my husband's mental wellbeing. He began experiencing depression and restlessness, disliking home and roaming the mountains day and night. This left him unable to support our family, and his unpredictable behavior concerned me for his safety".

"Living with all this, I become fortunate to unexpectedly receive direct cash assistance from Save the Children and its partner European Union, with full freedom to purchase anything for my baby and myself.

"Going forward, I plan to restore stability for my family by initiating income-generating activities using some of the cash, such as acquiring a few goats and starting small-scale poultry which is requiring care and follow up with minimal labor".

"I am very grateful for the life changing support I have received and for giving me hope that the sun will rise again. Who knows, maybe things will turn out even better than it did previously.


Background / Project information

Save the Children has been providing humanitarian services in the Tigray region since the outbreak of the Northern conflict. Save has been taking a leading role in providing medical services for internally displaced persons (IDPs) through mobile health clinic, distribution of non-food items (NFI kits), and many other.

Save the Children has been conducting a cash distribution initiative in Central Tigray on a selected 2 Woredas with 6 Kebeles, with funding from the European Union (ECHO). Swiss Government, French Government, and EU were some of the main donors of this cash distribution under the umbrella of EU (ECHO). Over 5803 households would be reached by three rounds of cash distribution.

Save has employed a community-led distribution model in which beneficiaries were chosen by Woreda administrations and certified by members of the identification committee who were chosen from communities with free elections. A distinct compliance and grievance committee, which is also chosen by the community, will handle any complaints received from the beneficiaries. It is always expected that grievance committees should be present to oversee the entire cash distribution process and address any concerns that may arise.