Mater Misericordiae Region
For more than 30 years we have operated a school for War Widows in Asmara (Eritrea). Upon completion of the courses, the women receive diplomas in sewing, embroidery, dress design, and cooking. Once the training is completed, the women either enter the workforce or start their own micro enterprise. While they are learning these skills, their children are attending our pre-school. We now have more than 300 children in the pre-school.
Because of the excessive number of young women dying in childbirth in the city of Hamelmalo, , the elders of the city asked us to build an emergency clinic. It is the only health facility for miles so many people come for medical help to the Sisters. We have an ambulance for transportation of the most serious cases to the hospital in Keren nearby. Besides having delivered hundreds of babies since the opening of the clinic in 2005, the Sisters also provide food and clothing for 1500 local children, most of whom have been orphaned by the death of their parents from AIDS.
In 2008 non-Eritreans were forced to leave the country. Two of our Sisters had to leave, however there are 12 native Sisters who have remained with the Aspirants, Postulants, and Novices. Sr. Virginia Jamele and Mother General visited Eritrea briefly this year. After a brief visit, they had to return to Rome. Work permits are not issued to non-Eritreans.
Eritrea is a poor East African country that is rapidly developing. Its capital is Asmara. Formerly a province of Ethiopia, Eritrea became an independent country on May 24, 1993, following a 30-year struggle that culminated in an overwhelming referendum vote for independence. The average income is about $1,110 per year.
In 1998-2000 Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war. United Nations peacekeepers patrolled the border until March 2008. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia maintain large military presences along the border and currently all border crossings into Ethiopia from Eritrea remain closed. Landmines and unexploded ordnances remain a serious problem throughout the country. There are reports of numerous incidents where vehicles and people accidentally detonate mines. Many detonations occur on relatively well-traveled roads in and near the Gash Barka region of western Eritrea; subsequent investigations indicated that several mines had been recently laid. Vast areas of the country still have not been certified free of mines and unexploded ordnance left over from both the 30-year war for independence and the subsequent 1998-2000 conflict with Ethiopia remain a dangerous threat.
Medical facilities in Eritrea are extremely limited. Travelers must carry their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventative medicines because pharmaceuticals are in short supply. Food and water-borne illnesses are very common among travelers, so they are advised to drink only bottled or purified water and to eat only foods that are cooked or peeled.