- Zemi died in Millennium Hall COVID-19 treatment center on Tuesday.
ADDIS ABABA – Many took to social media in disbelief and sorrow to extend their condolences after philanthropist Zemi Yenus died at the age of 60.
Zami died from Covid-19 in Addis Ababa on Tuesday morning, after losing what she described, in a Facebook message accompanied by a photo of her in an intensive care unit posted on April 28, as a battle.
Zemi was a successful beautician in the U.S. But upon returning to Ethiopia in 1996, her son Jojo Yusuf was diagnosed with autism.
She had a decision to make: return to the U.S. where she was an established cosmetologist in Los Angeles or began a new journey to help persons with Autism in Ethiopia.
She chose the latter.
Since then, she helped many kids with autism and their families via Nia Foundation, and founded Joy Autism Center, a specialist school catering to children with autism.
Zami’s continuous and dedicated works have touched the lives of many with Autism, a condition once considered a taboo subject in Ethiopia, until her unexpected death on Tuesday – making her a vocal champion for autism in the country.
“Her courageous decision was very hard and challenging which begs time, finance, stamina, lifetime devotion and attention to the unprivileged Autistic children and their respective hopeless parents,” Ephrem Sasa wrote on his Facebook page.
“The result was profound and pivotal!,” he said. “She lived an accomplished life! What a legacy!!!”.
In a message posted on Twitter, Ethiopia’s Health minister Dr. Lia Tadesse said she was “deeply shocked and devastated to learn we have lost Zemi Yenus to COVID-19” after describing her as “Kind and passionate” person.
“I would like to express my deepest condolences to her family, colleagues and her loved ones,” Dr. Lia added.
Eleni Zewed Gebre-Medhin, a prominent Ethiopian economist, called Zami “a beautiful soul, and a treasure for Ethiopia”.
“[I’m] very sad that Covid-19 has claimed yet another,” Eleni wrote on Facebook, adding, “May she rest in forever peace, and my sincere condolences to her loved ones.”
Ethiopia has lost nearly 4000 of its citizens to the deadly respiratory disease.
The autism world has also “lost a giant”, Rosa Hoekastra wrote on her Facebook page.
“My thoughts are with her son Jojo, her school the Joy Center, and all the families in Ethiopia and beyond for whom she worked so hard to improve their lives.” she said.