January 29, 2021
Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia, is at the centre of a conflict that began early in November 2020, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) allegedly attacked a regional command post of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF). The violence was a result of long-simmering struggles between the semi-autonomous region and the national government that were brought to a head when Tigray proceeded with regional elections in September despite the federal government’s postponement of the elections due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to the attack, the Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency, cut off government services, communications and travel to the region, and launched a counter-offensive. In the ensuing fighting, thousands have reportedly been killed, while hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, with many fleeing to neighbouring Sudan.
Though federal forces captured the regional capital of Mekelle in late November, the TPLF vowed to continue fighting, and conflict has continued, especially in the region’s mountainous areas where the TPLF leadership is said to be hiding. The fighting has led to further destabilization of the region and displacement of the population on an even-larger scale than initially reported.
The conflict has created new humanitarian pressures in a country where International Medical Corps has provided services since 2003, with programs in nutrition, primary healthcare, reproductive health, mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), gender-based violence (GBV), livelihoods, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). We have worked in Sudan since 2004, providing health, nutrition and WASH interventions.
Most of the thousands of people displaced by the conflict do not have access to personal protective equipment (PPE), raising the risk of an increase in COVID-19, measles and other infectious diseases. Consequently, International Medical Corps has begun to provide PPE and hygiene supplies to those affected by the conflict in Ethiopia and Sudan. There also are needs for:
- emergency medical services, to treat people injured or suffering from trauma;
- reproductive health services for pregnant women;
- nutritional services (the region already is experiencing high rates of malnutrition);
- support and protection services for those suffering from MHPSS and GBV issues; and
- WASH supplies and activities, including hygiene kits.
We are providing training to healthcare staff and community health volunteers, and are working with local authorities and humanitarian partners to coordinate response efforts. Check this page often for updates on the situation, and to find out more about how you can help those affected by the conflict.