What you need to know about the Tigray crisis

With North American news outlets still dominated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a humanitarian crisis in Tigray, Ethiopia is falling off the radar. Here are a few critical questions about the situation answered.

What is happening in Northern Ethiopia?

In early November 2020, a violent conflict erupted in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia, the result of a complicated history of political tension and power struggles, triggering a massive humanitarian crisis. Over a million people have fled their homes to escape battles between two military forces – the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Current estimates put 4.5 million more people – 80 percent of the region’s population – in desperate need of life-saving support.

The ongoing violence drives more people from their homes and jobs each day. In the chaos, thousands of children have been separated from their parents and many family members are still missing. Disruption of essential services such as banking, education, network access, and healthcare make daily life nearly impossible. Destruction of roads, hospitals and schools, and the loss of homes, businesses, livestock, and farms is increasing joblessness and hopelessness. As a result, millions are going without income, food, shelter, healthcare, sanitation, and more.  

How is Food for the Hungry responding?

Food for the Hungry (FH) has been working in Ethiopia since 1984 when we responded to a famine that took the lives of an estimated one million people. FH stayed beyond the emergency relief stage to help devastated communities transition into long-term development. Together with generous donors and child sponsors like you, we’ve been helping communities overcome poverty in Ethiopia ever since. 

FH Canada’s partner communities are located in Western Ethiopia, a near 900 km drive from Tigray in the north. This means that the communities we partner with are safe from the turmoil in Tigray, but our hearts go out to the millions suffering there. We will not stand by. 

Because of FH’s solid track record with the Ethiopian government, positive relationships with communities and organizations across the country, and strong team of over 1000 national staff, FH is uniquely positioned to swiftly respond to this crisis with practical help and life-giving hope.

Already, we have conducted six site visits to the makeshift “settlements” of those who fled their homes with nothing but the shirts on their backs. Many were lucky to escape with their lives. By facilitating group discussions and interviews with these internally displaced peoples (IDPs), FH learned their immediate needs. In response, FH and like-minded aid organizations are responding with emergency food; non-food items (NFIs) such as soap, face masks, and menstrual hygiene supplies; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); multi-purpose cash for families; and COVID-19 infection prevention and control. 

What comes next?

Sadly, the volatile crisis is still far from over. Localized fighting continues in Tigray, which means more and more families are on the run with nowhere to go. The current IDP “camps” desperately lack essential services. Families are huddled under trees and amidst the rubble of broken buildings. Many are wandering in barren land, exposed to the punishing heat. Women and children are vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), which is reported to be on the rise. Young and old alike are traumatized by the brutality they witnessed and/or experienced in the conflict. Psychosocial counselling, protection, water, sanitation, and shelter are urgently needed. 


By coordinating efforts with local and international partners like Samaritan’s Purse and Medical Teams International (MTI), FH will maximize its impact with the goal of delivering life-saving aid to 500,000 vulnerable people. 

While FH’s initial response to the Tigray crisis is focused on emergency needs, true to our core mission, we are considering a longer term presence in Tigray. Staying in the region will enable us to make the transition from crisis response to long-term development — the heartbeat of our purpose to end poverty, one community at a time.

What can I do?

You play a critical role in FH’s response to the humanitarian crisis in Tigray. By donating to FH’s emergency response fund, you can help bring stability and safety during this chaotic time. You’ll be supporting the life-saving aid that these families and individuals desperately need. Will you walk alongside displaced families in Tigray today?




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Food for the Hungry: What you need to know about the Tigray crisis
What you need to know about the Tigray crisis
Food for the Hungry
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