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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.
Abebech was born in a small rural village called Shebel (Salalee, Oromia regional state) in 1938. Her father was killed during the second Ethio-Italian war, so she was raised by her grandparents until the age of nine. At the age of 10, she was married without her consent, but she ran away to the capital, Addis Ababa. There, she managed to get basic education and later worked as a quality controller at a coffee and grain company.
She went to Gishen Mariam, Wollo Province, for pilgrimage in 1973. At the time, the area was severely stricken by famine. In a feeding center, Gobena saw a child next to her dead mother. She distributed the only thing she had to other victims, a loaf of bread and five liters of holy water, and brought the child along with another orphan to her home in Addis Ababa. In one year, she brought 21 children to her home.
Today, AGOHELMA, the association she founded, provides various services in addition to the orphanage itself, including formal and non-formal education, HIV/AIDS prevention activities, habitat improvement and infrastructure development, empowerment of women, among others. Additionally, it provides institutional care for 150 orphans. Since its establishment, over 12,000 needy children have been supported by the association with over 1.5 million people having benefited either directly or indirectly from the association in different regions of the country.
In June 2021, Abebech health worsen from COVID-19 and hospitalized at St. Paul Hospital in Addis Ababa. However she died from the complication on 4 July 2021.
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