Family from Makalle, Ethiopia

Makalle (also spelled Mek'elle) is subject to two major pressures at present – international tensions between Ethiopia and neighbouring Eritrea and changes in the climate, which bring regular droughts to the region.

Children suffer the most in extreme poverty and when war comes to their home.

Ancient tribes caught up in modern issues

Makalle is a city of around 170 000 in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. It is an important economic hub in Ethiopia, with its economy relying on trade, industry and education. Due to its location its is subject to international pressures as well - it is close to the border with Eritrea and was badly affected by the war between the two countries in 1998 to 2000. Tensions remain high and unstable. It was also torn apart in the 17 year Ethiopian civil war between 1974 - 91.

The Tigray people have lived in this region for millennia, converting to Christianity in the Fourth Century. For many years they lived a traditional lifestyle in parishes, and farming for their needs. Changes in the weather, food shortages, war, and an increase in food prices have put pressure on this lifestyle and a once proud people have often been pushed to the brink.

Life on the edge

It is now estimated that 58% of the population of Tigray were living in absolute poverty (less than $1 a day) in 2008. Due to rising food prices, people who once lived well are being sucked into poverty as their incomes have not risen to match. Children frequently drop out of school to contribute to the family income, and sometimes fathers abandon their families out of desperation. In other cases illness severely impacts on the family income.

Girls and women engage in sex work to improve the family income, and as a result there is a major HIV / AIDS problem, with young women having the largest proportion of the infections. SOS Children intervene where possible to help the most vulnerable families in Makalle.

SOS Children's Village Makalle

Children at the SOS Nursery School Makalle EthiopiaWe have worked into Makalle since 1976. Our social centres work into the community, offering a range of services to improve families' welfare. We run family strengthening programmes which include measures to help parents earn a decent income and work their way away from a culture of dependence. We run workshops on income generation and also provide counselling and psychological support. For families that work, we offer day care facilities so the children are well looked after while their parents are earning for the family. We run a farm where children can learn agricultural skills which will hold them in good stead into the future.

Our SOS medical centre serves up to 5000 people every year. It provides services ranging from community participatory health, to ante and post natal care, and voluntary HIV testing.

We run an SOS nursing vocational centre in Makalle which offers a three year diploma in nursing to up to 45 students. Graduates can work in government hospitals and health centres on graduation.

Loving family home for orphans

For children who can no longer live with their parents, they can be cared for in an SOS family in our Children's Village. They live in a family environment and are fully engaged with the community as they grow up, and looked after by an SOS Mother.

As children reach an age where they need more independence they are offered places through our SOS youth programme. This is a system of shared, supported housing where they can live while attending further education or vocational training.

We care for orphaned children in the SOS Village in Makalle, ensuring they have all the support they need to flourish. Sponsor one of these children today, and give them a bright future.


Helping a child with SOS Children is easy: A child sponsorship gives a child food, medical care, education and a loving family.