This is a country with a long history of rich culture and independence – and with a great deal of natural beauty within its borders.
With a great deal of people too. There are 80 million Ethiopians now, and at least for the next decade every year 2 million more will be born. Forecast for 2050: 160 million souls…
The shadow side (if this population growth isn’t one already): Ethiopia is almost the poorest of the least developed countries – 6th in the worldwide poverty index of UNDP. One out of three inhabitants lives on less than one dollar a day. Two thirds of adults are illiterate. Less than 30% of the population has access to safe water, less than 50% to simple sanitation like a pit latrine. Check for yourself the major UNDP development indicators for Ethiopia, or the Millenium Goals interim results, there is much to worry about; although several indicators show significant improvement over past years.
Where is this Jinka?
Addis Abeba is Ethiopia's capital, and a world on its own. Crowded, noisy, polluted; modernizing itself in a real building boom. Home of the African Union,
and with a large presence of UN offices.
Other cities in the country are mere villages by comparison.
Some 750 km by road south-west of Addis lies Jinka, a town of 25,000 inhabitants.
The area is mountainous and has a beauty of its own. Jinka lies amid the area where the least developed,
but also the most colourful traditional peoples of Ethiopia live: the Omo Valley.
Ethnic groups there each have their own tradition, culture, and way of clothing or sometimes not clothing... Some number 120 000 or over,
some around 50 000, others 10 000 or less; one reportedly a mere 1 500. Life here has not changed greatly for many, many years.
The vast majority of children grow up very happily with loving and caring parents in their own culture - like the baby with her mother on the left.
What makes some children here particularly needy?
Traditional life has much value of its own. People know the art of living with very few resources, while still enjoying life to the full.
They celebrate their own specific events, and have their own strong values and beliefs. It is unfortunate that some of these beliefs
lead to practices that cannot easily be understood, and from our perspective not even justified. One of these is the handling of Mingi children.
Mingi is a generic term for children that 'have not been born right'.
It may be that they have been conceived out of wedlock. It may be that they were born as twins. Or it may be that during their development
some signs of danger to the community are observed. The community's view of what to do with these children can be: they must no longer be
cared for in our midst. They may even be abandoned at very young age and left to die.
This practice is of course unlawful under Ethiopian law. But the regional authorities are not in a position yet to put a full end to it. And therefore there still exists the need to care for children that have been abandoned for traditional reasons by their parents and community.
What does Sokia want to do about that?
Our organisation wants to create a temporary home for such children. The church in Jinka will from time to time be alerted to the
existence of another such child, and will ask Sokia to care for it temporarily, during which time a search is made for foster parents in the area.
It is explicitly not the intention to 'produce' children for adoption in richer countries - just to give children a chance to grow up
in as much their own environment as possible. For that very purpose we have created, with many Ethiopian friends that also care
for an improvement of the situation, a home for those children in Jinka.