Chicago Ethiopian leaders question world’s silence over devastating drought in homeland

By Hannah Gebresilassie

Ten million people in Ethiopia are struggling to survive, let alone find a decent meal to eat. The country is facing its worst drought since the eighties, while political tension continues to erupt as ethnic groups clash.

It’s been just ten days since South Sudanese gunmen were blamed for killing 200 people and kidnapping over 100 children in the region of Gambella in western Ethiopia, according to Reuters.

Just last week, a ship with approximately 500 east African migrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea. 100 Ethiopians are said to have perished, according to a press release from the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago.

Ethiopian community leaders in Chicago are concerned that American media outlets are failing to cover the deadly conditions of their homeland.

[vimeo 163728299 w=474]

Leaders at the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago speak about the status of Ethiopia and lack of media coverage. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)

“Unless the crisis in Africa is really very sensational, they don’t receive adequate coverage,” said Aklilu Adeye, executive director of the association.

Adeye relies on social media and African-based news sites to keep him updated with the latest news. He is not alone.

“Sometimes I even ask myself, why I don’t hear anything about Africa?” said Almaz Seyoume, R&P/PC case manager of the association. “There are millions of people in a refugee camp in Africa and we don’t get media coverage. People are not aware about Africa.”

The Association has been helping refugees and immigrants adjust to life in Chicago since 1984, in addition to providing educational and cultural programs for the local community. The not-for-profit organization is affiliated with the Ethiopian Community Development Council based in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Agency for International Development reached out to Ethiopian community leaders to garner support for victims of the drought. While Ethiopia needs various forms of aid, USAID emphasized providing monetary assistance in a recent conference call, said Adeye.

The Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago is coordinating a fundraising event in the coming weeks to help with relief efforts. They’re also holding a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the victims lost in the series of deadly events. It will be held on May 5 at the Ethiopian Cultural Community Center.

Photo at top: The Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago serves refugees, immigrants and the Habesha community in and around metropolitan Chicago. (Hannah Gebresilassie/MEDILL)