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Children behind the news

March 31st, 2021

Birtukan (27) lives in a collective site for internally displaced people in Ethiopia where 13 households with 39 family members live together sharing an abandoned storage facility. These sites don't receive any support from the Ethiopian government and are solely assisted by NGOs like Terre des Hommes who work there to ensure that people like Birtukan, her son (7) and daughter (4) are safe.

Conflicts between the Amhara and Qemant communities that started in November 2018 and lasted several months had resulted in displacement of people in the western and central parts of the Amhara region. The conflict has forced people to flee from their home, separating families and pushing children to lose their childhood. 

Birukan has a hard life. The ethnic conflict separated Birukan and her husband because they belong to different ethnic groups. She had to flee the conflict because she comes from a different ethinic group and her husband cannot flee with her and the two children because he is not safe in the new location, where he would be identified as a person from the other ethinc group. In 2018, Birukan took a hard decision and moved to this site with her two little children for safety and protection, leaving her husband behind.

With no means to live, Birukan had to send her little daughter aged 7 years old to live with her father, hoping that her daughter would get a better life. However the daughter was under forced labour until she had a fire accident and came back to Birtukan seeking medical assistance. 

And then, the COVID-19 pandemic reached the site.

Birukan was afraid to get sick because she is the breadwinner for her two children. Despite her inability to attend formal education, she is working hard as a daily labor in two local restaurants to sustain the family and ensure her daughter gets the necessary medical care. She is at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 as she interacts with many people in the restaurants. The restaurant owners could not provide her the personal protective equipment needed to prevent COVID-19 and she could not afford to buy masks, sanitizer and other hygiene items. 

In her own words "help is important to us as we can't afford hygiene kits by ourselves." The two children depend on Birukan's jobs and there's no way she can work without hygiene measures to prevent COVID-19.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands provided Birtukan and other 259 families with one-off liquid soap and face masks to ensure that vulnerable families have access to items to protect them against COVID-19 infection.

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