OROn November 4, 2020, the world was busy with the results of the American elections. However, for me and many others with family and friends in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, that day marked the beginning of a year-long nightmare. And it’s one that the world, for the most part, has ignored.
When Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced a military offensive in Tigray that day, it was difficult to predict the extent of human suffering that would ensue. But almost instantly Tigray, a region in the far north of the country that is home to more than 7 million people, was cut off from the world: phone lines were cut, the Internet was cut, banks were closed and journalists were banned. region of.
For many with family in Tigray, including myself, we braced ourselves, hoping to find out what had become of our family and friends. Now, a year later, we have a man-made humanitarian catastrophe that USAID has called “One of the worst humanitarian crises in the world”. UN relief chief Martin Griffiths He said last week that “Tigray is probably the worst place to live in the world right now.”
In the first two months of the war, more than 56,000 Refugees from Tigray fled to Sudan, bringing with them heartbreaking memories of massacres at the hands of armed militias, Ethiopian soldiers and troops from Eritrea (which is located north of Tigray). Later, Ethiopian soldiers closed the border, reducing the number of refugees who could flee.
From a personal perspective, the war has had a huge impact. Those of us in the Tigrayan Dispora live each day not knowing if our family members are alive; the news of every massacre, air raid, and mass arrest brings a sense of impending doom, that our family or friends could be among the victims.
Friends of the West have turned to the Internet to announce the deaths of mothers, brothers, grandparents and friends. Just three weeks ago there were multiple bombings in the capital of Tigray, Mekelle, which caused a large number of civilian casualties. There have been reports of Concentration camps controlled by Ethiopian forces housing Tigraya people, including babies as young as two years old, as well as pregnant women and children. This week we learned of a wave of mass arrests of Tigrayans in the capital, Addis Ababa, whose only crime is their ethnic origin. While writing this article, I discovered that a relative of mine is one of the many Tigrayans arrested.
The war in Tigray has hauntingly seen girls as young as eight become victims of sexual violence, with various reports of women abducted and gang-raped by Ethiopian troops, Eritrean soldiers and armed militia. Earlier this year, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) projected that around 22,500 victims of sexual violence during the conflict he will need medical attention this year. Due to the government-imposed media lockdown, these reports are likely just the tip of the iceberg.
The extent of the destruction has led to the Tigray health system nearly collapsing. Doctors Without Borders reported that 70% of the health facilities were looted by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. Reports from the region also include the destruction of churches and mosques, the murder of humanitarian workers, massive displacement, as well as journalists attacked and stopped by government forces.
The war has also brought with it a demon from Ethiopia’s past: a man-made famine. Hunger is a word we hear often, but what is perhaps not emphasized enough is the deeply horrific way it kills its victims: the cells of an undernourished body essentially begin to consume themselves. Inside Tigray right now, more than 5 million people suffer critical food insecurity. “There is a famine in Ethiopia right now. ” United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock said in June this year. With the region still under a “De facto humanitarian blockade” According to the Ethiopian government, the crisis will get worse.
A year later, the war has spread to other regions of the country, namely Amhara and Afar, where civilians now face severe food insecurity and mass displacement.
During the last conversation I had with my family in Mekelle, before the phone lines were once again cut, my aunt asked me to pray for the people of Tigray and for an end to their suffering. My younger cousin, who until the beginning of the war was a college student with a dream of being an engineer, made me promise to share what the people of Tigray have endured. It has been a while since I spoke to them and, like many people with relatives in Tigray, I don’t know when I will hear from them again. I can’t even be sure they’re still alive.
The extent of the suffering in Tigray raises the question: why are so few people aware of their plight? For the most part, print and broadcast media have given human suffering relatively little coverage.
It is terrifying that, due to the blockade in Tigray, the full extent of civilian suffering is still unknown. In trying to understand the brutality to which the civilians of Tigray have been subjected, it is difficult to imagine how they will be effectively rehabilitated, how many families have been torn apart and how that trauma will affect young people.
What we do know is that the people of Tigray have suffered badly. They are crying out for help and need someone to listen to them.
Magdalene Abraha is a writer and editor. She runs the A quick jingle Serie
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism