Why Adwa?

Thank you for supporting disadvantaged children and their communities!

We want to tell you why Amici di Adwa has been helping the Ethiopian people since 1998. This is a people that has suffered very much, following a long history of colonisation that began with Italy, the legacy of a ferocious dictatorship and a civil war involving chemical warfare, as well as cyclical famines that allowed a minority to speculate and act in their own interests rather than those of the majority of the population.

Perhaps you are asking: “But there are people in need of help in so many parts of the world! Why do you want to help Adwa in particular?
And the answer is: just try and imagine…
…what your life would be like if you were born in Adwa?

  • You would have come to know hunger in one of the frequent famines. People still die of hunger and diseases caused by malnutrition in Adwa today. An average salary is just not enough to feed a family when food is scarce and prices go up …
  • There’s a ten percent chance you would not have survived to reach the age of five: Ethiopia has one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates.
  • You would have very little education. Girls in particular are encouraged to drop out of school to help their mothers in their household duties, in caring for their younger siblings, in minor farming tasks or as shepherds and goatherds.
  • Just falling down could be enough to leave you disabled for life; an ordinary infection could kill you. Doctors, medical equipment and medicines are scarce, and very expensive.

We came up against these problems, and took them to heart when Sister Laura Girotto responded to Ethiopia’s cry for help.

Do you know that feeling when you listen to someone talk and feel you simply must do something to help them? This is what happened to the people who went to church one Sunday morning in 1994 in Penzale, near Ferrara… and they haven’t stopped helping ever since!

Sister Laura founded Kidane Mehret mission (meaning “veil of mercy”, the name of the mountain above the mission, in the local language) on barren land devastated by chemical warfare. All she had as a shelter and landmark for the local people was a blue tent left behind by soldiers…

[For more about the history of the Adwa mission and Sister Laura, request a copy of the book “The blue tent”]

Now, with the support of countless individuals, groups, churches, organisations and companies, there is a mission with schools of all types and levels, greenhouses, stables, a hostel, and workshops for vocational training. Long-distance adoptions provide children with food, clothing and an education until they become adults, offering the new generation the tools they need to make a contribution to their country’s future.
But once the school got going, it became clear that there was a medical emergency. Too many students, teachers and parents were dying of diseases that are easily treatable in other parts of the world!
Sister Laura and her sisters asked Amici di Adwa to support an important new project: the construction and opening of a new hospital.
The needs of children, months and communities in Ethiopia are so vast, there is a huge need for your help. Give the children and mothers of Adwa a future! So much can be done with even a small donation.

Your help can change the lives of children in Ethiopia, making you a truly special person for them!


(Many thanks for the translation to Joanne Roan)


Italian history textbooks remember Adwa as the first time a “white” army was defeated on African soil…
In fact, the Italians were defeated in their first attempt to colonise Abyssinia in 1896 in the very mountains surrounding the town.
The battle is celebrated as a national holiday every March 2 in modern Ethiopia as a historic victory.
In 1936, when Eritrea was already an Italian colony, Ethiopia was conquered and occupied for five years, even using arms prohibited by international agreements. However, the Italians also left behind many buildings, roads, and infrastructure in general.

The arrival of missionaries in the town, at the request of the people themselves, was thus a return with the weapons of solidarity, humanitarian effort, and initiatives to benefit the needy.

Today there are between 40,000 and 60,000 inhabitants in Adwa (not everyone is recorded at the registry office…). The Kidane Mehret Mission is a small city within the city, a driving force for the local economy and a benchmark for education, training, and aid. Over the years, the dusty roads have been paved, commercial and artisanal activities have multiplied, some mud huts have been replaced by houses, or even flat complexes, expats have started to return home.

Adwa is located in the Tigray region and is very close to Eritrea, with which relations continue to be tense and the border is militarised.

The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a landlocked nation in western Africa, bordered by Eritrea and Djibouti to the northeast, Somalia to the east and southeast, Kenya to the southwest, and Sudan to the west and northwest.

The capital, Addis Abeba, is about 1,000 km from Adwa.

Ethiopia has a surface area of 1,133,380 km2 and the population is estimated at 96 million inhabitants. The country is extremely ethnically diverse: the main groups are the Amhara (or Abyssinians), the Oromo, the Tigrayans, the Sidama, and the Danakil.

It is one of the poorest countries in the world: the average GDP per capita is US$619 (World Bank data). Life expectancy is 60 years. The child mortality rate is 55 deaths before the age of 5 for every 1000 children.

The percentage of the population living in rural areas is extremely high: the existing agriculture is nearly exclusively subsistence farming. The Ethiopian economy relies heavily on the agricultural sector and most trade is local, with very limited presence on the global market. One of the country’s most important economic resources is the production and export of coffee, by the far the most important crop, employing approximately a quarter of the population. Recurring droughts, coupled with damage from the civil war and conflict with Eritrea, have often forced the country to import staple foods.

Over the last several decades, deforestation, excessive exploitation of pastures and the lack of a land management program have accelerated fertile soil erosion. Deforestation and desertification are worsened by the widespread use of conventional fuels like firewood, which supplies 95.88% of total energy consumption.

Adult literacy is at 40% (2013); since 1952, when only 4% of the population could read and write, education has increased significantly. Primary education is free. The current infrastructure, albeit still insufficient, has made attending school significantly more accessible.