Hundreds of thousands of Tigrayans have been silently displaced, abused and scrutinized in atrocious actions played by the Amhara region and the Ethiopian Federal troops where children, women and men not only lost their homes and loved ones but also their dignity and human rights. This ethnic war has caused children in Western Tigray to miss out on education, lose their homes and go through malnutrition and hunger ever since the conflict started in November 2020.
War´s background and facts
The Tigray region is a state that belongs to north-western Ethiopia and is bordered by Eritrea to the north, Sudan to the west, the Amhara Region to the south and the Afar Region to the east and southeast. In 1990, Western Tigray which is bordered by Sudan and Eritrea was added to the Tigray region that was newly formed as a state and a fertile territory for conflicts over borders and identity. This conflictive environment reached its peak when officials from Amhara Region allied their forces with the Ethiopian Federal troops in order to take control over the Western Tigray in November 2020.
Based on extensive interviews that Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch organized between December 2020 and March 2022, it is known that, starting from November 2020, Tigrayans have been suffering from constant abuses from Amhara regional security forces and civilian authorities in Ethiopia´s Western Tigray Zone (Human Rights Watch, 2022). These abuses have transitioned into war crimes and crimes against humanity where killings, tortures, sexual assaults, mass detention, and forcible displacement were some of the means used to atrociously attack the Tigrayan civilian population (Amnesty International, 2022).
Children as victims of the ethnic cleansing
Suffering from famine, violence, lack of medical aid and education, family dislocation, forced transfers and constant trauma, the children of the Tigray region have been deeply affected by these conflicts. In fact, more than 1.7 million children and adults have been displaced due to these crimes (Africa News, 2021). Children have witnessed horrifying actions played upon their parents and families by the Amhara forces and were often the very victims who were not spared in this barbaric ethnic cleansing.
Moreover, a worrying number of children have lost their homes and got separated from their families. They have suffered from a shortage of medical supplies and food and haven’t had any access to basic healthcare. As a consequence, they´ve been severely malnourished and their lives have been in danger since. The exact number of unregistered deaths is not known since most parents have not been able to find transfers for their children to the nearest health centre (The National News, 2022).
On the other hand, “a total of 1.39 million children in the Tigray region are missing out on education because of Ethiopia’s civil war.” (VOA News, 2022). More specifically, more than 1 million Tigray children have missed the third year of school due to the situation.
Moreover, according to the summary report released by The Tigray Bureau of Education, permanent damage has been caused in Western Tigray’s education sector due to the number of deaths and the level of destruction within the school system. Additionally, classroom facilities, books and other educational materials and facilities have been permanently destroyed.
“The report says 346 males and 1798 females totaling 2164 persons in the education sector have been killed. Out of those, 235 are teachers and other professionals including school principals and supervisors.”– TGHAT, 2022
Restricted humanitarian aid in the Tigray region
Since the conflict started in the Western Tigray region, there have been many humanitarian restrictions. The Ethiopian government suspended many aid operations, blocked routes of humanitarian support and caused communication blackouts (BBC News, 2022). These limitations have led to widespread man-made famine that is currently considered to be one of the hardest in the world.
However, at the beginning of April 2022, humanitarian aid reached the Tigray zone in order to provide Tigrayans with food and other humanitarian supplies (United Nations, 2022). “WFP (World Food Programme) has finally been able to meet the food needs of over 800,000 people in Tigray” (United Nations, 2022). Even though this represents a step forward in the humanitarian supply for this region, this aid has only reached 40 per cent of all women and children in Northern Ethiopia (United Nations, 2022).
Moreover, according to this organization, more than 20 per cent of under-age-five children, and half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women are still suffering from malnutrition. In addition, the effects of the Ukraine war which started in early 2022 have only intensified the food crisis in Western Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia since the country provides more than three-quarters of the WFP and government wheat (United Nations, 2022). Apart from that, other essential services, such as electricity, communication and banking services, are still missing. Therefore, further humanitarian aid including agricultural supply for summer planting is necessary.
International response to the conflicts and human rights violations
At the beginning of the conflicts in the Western Tigray Zone, the response of the international community was described as “tepid” (Amnesty International, 2021). The African Union and the neighbouring countries didn´t do enough to draw attention to the situation in the region affected. Other organizations requested access to the Western Tigray region with the aim of verifying the facts about the situation in this area which the Ethiopian government neglected. Therefore, other methods were used in order to bring evidence regarding the violations of human rights in the Western Tigray zone (Amnesty international, 2021).
After the outburst of conflicts in November 2020, in February 2021 access was granted to the international media and a series of reports documenting these violations started to flow. Thanks to these almost independent investigations, the allegations were confirmed and a global message was sent. Since then, international organizations have been trying, by all means, to reach this region and provide the affected population with food and non-food items.
“Since early April, truck movements to Tigray followed an upward trend, from 170 trucks in April, to over 1,100 in May and over 1,200 in June so far.”– ReliefWeb, June 2022
The international community has been urged to react to the conflicts in this region and help by providing solutions, supplies and medical aid. The situation has recently calmed down; however, the humanitarian operations are still not able to reach their full capacity due to unpredictable security concerns (Relief Web, 2022).
Indefinite ceasefire and a possible solution to the conflicts
In early 2022, Ethiopia decided to terminate the conflicts in northern Ethiopia and go forward in finding long-term solutions. This would allow a better flow of humanitarian aid and the overall peace in this part of Africa. To support the humanitarian truce, the Ethiopian government has invited the local rebels in the Western Tigray and Amhara regions to cease the attacks and pull back their forces from the occupied areas. Their response is yet to be received (The Eastern African, 2022).
The Ethiopian government has the support of the US, Canada, UK and other Western nations whose governments continue to outline the importance of aid flow in northern Ethiopia. The US Department of State released a press statement to request the parties to “accelerate, uphold, and expand these efforts to ensure, as President Biden has said, immediate, sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access to all Ethiopians affected by this conflict. The United States stands ready to continue to assist in this life-saving endeavour” (US Department of State, 2022).
The process is certainly going to be long and not an easy one since the rebel forces continue to unexpectedly attack. However, the fact that numerous organizations and the international community are drawing attention to this conflict indicates the gravity of the situation which has officially violated the human rights of the people from this part of Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government needs to assume the consequences of obstructing humanitarian aid which should never be subject to control by political or military conditions.
Supporting children’s rights in Africa
When it comes to Ethiopia, the conflict that started in November 2020 only adds to the already existing problems in this African country. Malnutrition, poor health services, limited access to water and general poverty were unfortunately deeply-rooted issues that have been troubling this region for decades.
At Humanium, we strongly disapprove of these atrocious acts and will always stand for children´s rights. Moreover, we will always advocate for children´s protection and work hard on ending any form of violence against children. Intending to ensure their welfare, we support various projects on a global scale, including those in Africa. Our approach is participatory which means that we cooperate with local partners. Our teams oversee the projects and their funding and guarantee absolute transparency.
If you want to help us continuously support the implementation of children´s rights, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become a member or a volunteer. Furthermore, we wholeheartedly suggest making a donation or sponsoring a child. Join us in our effort of making this world a better place where the rights of all children are protected and respected!
Written by Jovana Andelkovic
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THAT (2022), “Tigray´s Bureau of Education: Summary Report on Tigray Education´s Human and Material Damage”, retrieved from: https://www.tghat.com/2022/05/11/tigrays-bureau-of-education-summary-report-on-tigray-educations-human-and-material-damage/, accessed on 01/07/2022
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