The war against Tigray: a modern humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia


PARIS, France – Ethiopia is located in the Horn of Africa. It has the second highest population in Africa with around 112 million inhabitants. Although Ethiopia is considered the fastest growing economy in Africa, “it is also one of its poorest nations.“Internal political conflicts have led to a deep humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia. It has affected the poorest communities in the country and around its borders.

Although Ethiopia’s extreme poverty was down to 15.9%, the general population living in poverty is still 23.5%. In addition, due to the recent military conflict between the Ethiopian federal government and the Tigray region, the latest estimates show that acute malnutrition in Tigray alone has reached 34%. About 4.5 million living in the area are in need of emergency food assistance. At least 70,000 children are at risk severe and acute malnutrition.

From military conflict to national war

Ethiopia is a federal parliamentary republic. This means that the country is made up of different ethnic regions, called semi-autonomous states. All these regions share the same prime minister and the same president. It is therefore not surprising that Ethiopia was experiencing tensions between states and the federal government for decades. The country has struggled with deep-rooted repressive issues such as structural economic difficulties, inter-ethnic tensions, security concerns and regional conflicts.

The Ethiopian Coalition was once the main acting body trying to find sufficient solutions. It consisted of four ethno-regional parties: the Oromo People’s Democratic Organization, the Amhara National Democratic Movement, the Southern Ethiopia People’s Democratic Movement, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Initially, the coalition was an equal ruling alliance. However, the last party, TPLF, ended up holding the most power.

Front for the Liberation of the People of Tigray

TPLF is a liberal nationalist party which formed in 1975. Although officially responsible only for the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia, for the past 30 years the TPLF has dominated most of the country. The party regime was deemed autocratic and illegal. However, its political importance was diminished in 2018, when the current Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abyi Ahmed, came to power. The new prime minister not only opposed the anti-democratic practices of the TPLF, but also wanted to centralize Ethiopian political power.

Uninterested in any cooperation with the new centralized government, the TPLF withdrew from the Ethiopian coalition. He ignored the country’s elections, which were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and held his own in the summer of 2020. After an alleged raid on government military bases by the TPLF , the Ethiopian federal government declared war on Tigray in November. 2020.

Since then, the country’s administration no longer recognizes the TPLF and has cut all funding for the Tigray region. Abiy Ahmed’s government removed most of the party’s top members and prosecuted them for corruption and abuse of power. Acts of violence committed by both the TPLF and the Ethiopian army led to further criminal actions such as looting, physical violence against civilians and rape. The conflict has now moved from Ethiopia to countries across its northern border – Sudan and Eritrea.

The humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia

On Tuesday February 2, the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed his concerns regarding the urgent need for resources to protect the threatened Ethiopian population. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has received allegations of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.

So far, the United Nations estimates that there are potentially three million people in need of urgent assistance in Tigray alone. About one million people are internally displaced and 280,000 in the regions of Tigray, Amhara and Afar. More … than 96,000 refugees from neighboring Eritrea are registered in four camps in Tigray – Mai Aini, Adi Harush, Hitsats and Shimelba. They don’t have enough food and resources available to them.

Filippo Grandi, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said the the situation in Ethiopia is “extremely serious” and all forms of support are needed, be it food, medicine, water, shelter or PPE and equipment to prevent further outbreaks of the novel coronavirus. Lots of refugees have to eat leaves due to lack of food or any access to services and supplies. Besides extreme hunger and increased poverty, people also suffer from looting and theft.

Help so far

Since November, the Ethiopian government has approved 25 international humanitarian workers to help those who need it in Tigray. The main organizations providing assistance in the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia have been the World Food Program (WFP), the United Nations Agency for Humanitarian Refugees (UNHCR), UNICEF and the Ethiopian Agency for Refugees and Refugees. returnees (ARRA).

So far, together they helped over 1.7 million people since the start of the crisis. UNHCR has relocated 14,000 refugees away from the Tigray-Eritrea border. Mai Ayni camp and its nearly 13,000 refugees received 18 trucks with 250 metric tons of food. Adi Harush camp received 240 metric tons for its 12,170 refugees.

UNICEF also provided the two main camps with the additional aid of 29 trucks with emergency protection and nutrition equipment. They also received 440 tons of aid from Dubai and Nairobi. This aid included more than 3,000 tents, “75,000 blankets, 45,000 mattresses, 20,000 solar lights, 17,000 mosquito nets” and more than 8,000 plastic sheeting.

Look ahead

According to the report presented by the World Food Program, 60 other humanitarian organizations are awaiting approval to help war-affected communities in Tigray. However, to properly respond to the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia and its neighboring countries, the organizations have a shortfall of $ 172 million for the next six months. This money would allow them to meet the needs of the most vulnerable. These needs include food, displacement of refugees, flights with humanitarian aid, road repairs and camp development.

Natalia Barszcz
Photo: Flickr


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