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Eating Grass:the Gambella Refugee Crisis

30 years ago there were no Anglican churches in Gambella, Ethiopia. Now there are over 150 serving more than 15000 Anglicans, and their children are starving to death.

Click here to Donate via the Friends of the Anglican Province of Alexandria

The Gambella regional State in the west of Ethiopia borders Sudan where war is raging. This is the region where the casualties of that war – refugees fleeing conflict – have gathered, mostly in camps. The Anglican Church has grown exponentially over the last few years and has developed a ministry of reconciliation between different tribes, united in need, that provides a glimmer of hope for the future. ( There are plans to build schools and community facilities and to develop Christian ministry. But the immediate problem is food. 

A collage of pictures of hungry children, including a dish apparently made from leaves

International providers, the UN and other NGOs, have paused their contributions in order to ensure that the food goes to where it is intended. The result is that no food rations for the people in the camps have been received for five months, and any stocks are exhausted.

The senior cleric on the ground in Gambella, Archdeacon Jeremiah reports

the refugees are left with no other means of survival only to eat grass and unhealthy leaves of trees. Children and the elderly ones have literally died and are still dying of starvation. The strong are fleeing the Camps. Such a scenario has never ever happened since the day refugees landed on the soil of Gambella Region.

Local churches in Gambella town are doing what they can to save just a single child’s life, but the task is beyond local resources. The Diocese is part of the former Diocese of Egypt and the Diocese of Gambella is one of four that will form the recently established Anglican Province of Alexandria. The present time is one of transition. Bishop Anthony Ball is Assistant Bishop in Egypt and is coordinating the transition process which is due to conclude in 2025. In the meantime, the Church does have a structure for the distribution of aid. Bishop Anthony is currently travelling in the region. He says,

It may be that nothing can be done in the short term but, as fellow members of the Body of Christ, we can at least rejoice in that relationship and offer prayer for each other.

Those who would like to donate should visit the ‘get involved’ section of the Friends of the Anglican Province of Alexandria website marking their gift ‘Gambella.’

Posted 8th October 2023

UPDATE 10th October 2023

The World Food Programme (WFP) has begun rolling out food distributions to nearly 900,000 refugees in Ethiopia following a full revamp of its refugee operations. 

Read the full United Nations report