|Violent conflict doesn't discriminate between armed fighters and mothers of new babies, children, the elderly, or the sick.
As we first reported last April, in early November 2020, a violent conflict erupted in the Tigray region of Northern Ethiopia between two military forces—the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). It has now spilled into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar. The result of a complex history of political tension and power struggles, this conflict triggered a widespread and escalating humanitarian crisis that is now in its third year.
Homes, crops, livestock, and community buildings, including hospitals and schools, have been destroyed. Current estimates put 9.4 million people in these three regions in desperate need of life-saving support. As of September 2021, there were over 4.2 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) across the country—double the figure at the end of 2020.
Disruption of essential services such as banking, education, network access, and healthcare make daily life nearly impossible. Destruction of infrastructure and the loss of homes, businesses, livestock, and farms is resulting in food and income shortages. Millions are still in need of shelter, healthcare, sanitation, and a safe place. As of publishing this article, the last humanitarian convoy to arrive in Tigray by road was on December 14, 2021. Hunger is reaching disastrous levels—83 per cent (4.6 million people) of the population surveyed in the Tigray Region are classified as food insecure, of which 2 million (37 per cent of the population) are severely food insecure.
To make matters worse, in 2021, new conflicts began to erupt in regions further south, including Oromia where Sasiga is located and where Food for the Hungry (FH) Canada partners with multiple communities.
How are FH Canada partner communities being affected?
Since September 2021, violent conflict between unidentified armed groups (UAGs) and the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have been destabilizing the Oromia Region in the Eastern Wollega area where Sasiga is located. On September 1, a major UAG initiative caused significant destruction. Private assets were destroyed, farms and houses burned down, and psychological distress caused to families, especially children.
Air strikes close to FH partner communities have been reported. Attacks on public transport and government buildings resulted in widespread travel restrictions, preventing the FH Ethiopia team from visiting FH partner communities. On November 19, fighting broke out in a community in Sasiga, itself. FH activities in Sasiga were suspended from September-December 2021.
In January 2022, however, the Ethiopian government regained control of Oromia, allowing aspects of normal life, such as public transportation, to resume.
In Northern Ethiopia, FH continues to work with local and international partners to get life-saving aid into the regions of Tigray and Amhara. Travel has been very difficult. Since December 15, conflict at the Tigray border entry point and widespread fuel shortages in Tigray have prevented aid like food, commodities, seeds, and WASH material from getting to the most vulnerable. The FH team has had to get creative—floating food across a bordering river in local boats in order to continue distributions in some of the hardest to reach areas.
According to FH Country Director Trish Okenge, “They [the FH team] are resilient, adaptable, and positive, sharing across families, communities, and church groups. Strangers are being cared for with very limited resources.” As of January, FH is now able to access almost all the woredas (districts) where FH is persevering to bring hope and help to the victims of conflict.
|Families running from violence can't carry their mattresses or the kitchen sink. FH provided 100 IDP families near Sasiga with essential non-food items.
FH Ethiopia staff responded by requesting support from FH Canada to partner with the Sasiga leaders and help the displaced. One hundred families were identified to receive non-food items including mattresses, blankets, soap, and cooking pots. Other aid organizations and local churches are also helping as the need is great.
In the months ahead, more assistance will be needed, especially for orphans and the most disadvantaged families. FH Canada plans to support FH Ethiopia and the Sasiga leaders as they help their new neighbours survive the harsh realities of being cast adrift by conflict, homeless and landless in a foreign place.