menu search
Who was abebech gobena? What did she do?
thumb_up_off_alt 0 like thumb_down_off_alt 0 dislike

2 Answers

Abebech Gobena (Amharic: አበበች ጎበና; Afan Oromo: Abbabachi Goobanaa; 1938 – 4 July 2021) was an Ethiopian humanitarian, and the founder and manager of AGOHELMA, one of the oldest orphanages in Ethiopia. She was often called the Mother Teresa of Africa.
thumb_up_off_alt 0 like thumb_down_off_alt 0 dislike

Abebech Gobena, the ‘Mother Teresa’ of Africa

She created one of Ethiopia’s largest orphanages and through it saved thousands from starvation and disease. She died of complications of Covid-19.

Abebech Gobena with some of the thousands of orphaned children she rescued and nurtured in Ethiopia. 

Abebech Gobena with some of the thousands of orphaned children she rescued and nurtured in Ethiopia. 

Abebech Gobena was returning from a pilgrimage to the holy site of Gishen Mariam, about 300 miles north of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, when she saw the woman and her baby.

It was 1980, and Ms. Gobena was passing through an area recently stricken by drought and an accompanying famine. All along the road were bodies — many dead, some dying, some still able to sit up and ask for food.

“There were so many of these hungry people sprawled all over, you could not even walk,” she said in a 2010 interview with CNN. She handed out what little she had — a loaf of bread, a few liters of water.

At first, Ms. Gobena thought the woman was asleep, and she watched as the baby tried to suckle at her breast. Then she realized the mother was dead.

A man nearby was collecting bodies. He told her he was waiting for the child, a girl, to die.

Without thinking further, Ms. Gobena picked up the baby, wrapped her in a cloth and took her home to Addis Ababa. She returned the next day with more food and water.

“One of the men dying by the side of the road said to me, ‘This is my child. She is dying. I am dying. Please save my child,’” she recalled. “It was a terrible famine. There were no authorities. The government at that time did not want the famine to be public knowledge. So I had to pretend the children were mine and smuggle them out.”

By the end of the year she had 21 children living with her and her husband, Kebede Yikoster. At first supportive, he eventually gave her an ultimatum: him or the children.

Ms. Gobena left him, and most of her possessions, taking the children to live with her in a shack in the woods. She sold her jewelry to raise money, then eked out an income selling injera bread and honey wine. Unable to pay the children’s school fees, she found a tutor to visit the shack.

She took in more children, and after years of battling government bureaucracy in Ethiopia, in 1986 she managed to register her organization — Abebech Gobena Children’s Care and Development Association — as a nonprofit, enabling her to raise money and accept grants.

She bought farmland outside Addis Ababa, where she and the orphans worked, and sold the produce to fund the orphanage. They also built dozens of latrines, public kitchens and water points around the city.

thumb_up_off_alt 1 like thumb_down_off_alt 0 dislike