The conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia has spread to the Afar and Amhara regions and continues to be of grave concern. Our sites are not in the areas that are directly affected by the conflict, but the increasingly unstable situation affects the whole country.
In late August U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted that "inflammatory rhetoric and ethnic profiling are tearing apart the social fabric of the country... Well beyond Tigray, the conflict... has displaced reportedly 300,000 more people." He called on all parties to cease hostilities and to ensure unrestricted humanitarian access everywhere, but that has yet to happen.
The instability and accompanying inflation affect the whole country. Transportation is challenging because roads are often blocked; food and other commodities are expensive and create hardships for our girls and their families, for the mentors, and the committee that supports each site.
Access to electricity, internet, and phone lines is an ongoing problem. The girls in the western sites (Ayira Guliso, Bodji, Nedjo, and Nekemte) are the most directly affected by these constraints, but schools are still open in all our sites, the mentors are able to meet regularly with the girls and the financial support we send is getting through. We are also able to add 5 more girls at each site and are opening our ninth site in Begi in western Ethiopia.
We are inspired by the successes and hard work of the REAL girls. All of the 8th graders in our program passed the Leaving Exam as did 12 of our 12th graders. Normally those 12th-grade graduates would leave the REAL program and be beginning their university or vocational studies in September, but because of the ongoing instability, they have yet to be assigned to their next school, so REAL will support them financially through the rest of the calendar year.
Secretary-General Guterres ended his speech to the UN Security Council, "Ethiopia is a country full of promise — driven in large measure by the energy and initiative of its youth. It is heartbreaking to see many young Ethiopians being instrumentalized and mobilized in the war effort. Their energies are being channeled into a path of division and destruction instead of the path of building a better future for all Ethiopians. They will be the ultimate casualties in this needless conflict. In every sense, the future of Ethiopia is at stake. Let us pledge to do all we can to advance the path of national cohesion and peace."
As the Secretary-General said, it is young Ethiopians like our girls who are the future of Ethiopia and who need both our financial support and the connection with people half a world away who believe in them and their future. We deeply appreciate the continued support of our many sponsors and donors. It is not an exaggeration to say you are needed more than ever now. We do not know what the future holds and will keep you informed.