Despite Ethiopia’s declared humanitarian cease-fire with Tigrayan rebels, aid groups said they are struggling to get food and medicine to those in need. Even outside the worst affected areas in Tigray, which are off limits to reporters, providing aid is fraught with risks and challenges.
In Ethiopia’s northern Amhara region, burned tanks and other ruined military equipment lie at the roadside four months after occupying forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, left the area. As the region recovers from a brutal civil war, the U.N. said some 9.4 million people in the Amhara region and neighboring Afar and Tigray regions need humanitarian assistance. But aid has been slow to arrive.
Seventeen-year-old Ahmed Nuru was living in the Oromia region, but said he had to flee after facing persecution for his Amhara ethnicity. He lost his mother when he was young. Last year, his father died after being unable to get lifesaving treatment due to the war’s impact on the local health care system.
Now, Nuru is left to take care of his sisters, ages 10 and 8. He said life is very difficult and doesn’t know how he will be able to raise his sisters.
Daniel Tigabu, a public health officer based in the camp for the displaced where Ahmed lives, said there is not enough medical equipment or medicine. The center is running out of basic medical kits, as well as a shortage of kits for malaria, hepatitis and HIV testing.
Tens of thousands live in camps for the displaced in the Amhara region. Others live in host communities, like Tsgenet Tibebu, who lost her husband during the conflict with the TPLF.
Tibebu said she and her son rely on what her husband’s friends provide as charity, which includes a room to stay in. As tears begin to flow, she said she is a housewife who has nothing and is waiting for support to help her raise her two children. She believes she should pay rent even though the owners have given her a place to stay. She wonders how she can plan for the future when she has nothing.
Mulugeta Kebede, an aid worker who works in the Hayk camp, spoke to VOA and said stories like Nuru’s and Tibebu’s are not uncommon across Amhara.
He said the situation makes aid workers cry day and night. He said if someone is hungry, they can’t sleep because they think about their empty stomach. He said he has seen displaced people sell pans or mattresses to surved and added that the situation is at a critical stage.
About 30,000 people displaced by conflict live just north of Hayk, in Weldiya. A local government representative, Habtemariam Assefa, North Wollo Zone spokesperson, said there was a little support shortly after TPLF left, after the area had been a conflict zone for months. But, he said, aid has been distributed only twice since and the aid provided by the U.N. or the federal government is not enough.
North of the Amhara region, in Tigray where journalists are banned from entering, the U.N. said the situation is worse, with famine-like conditions. Tigray is under a de facto humanitarian blockade, according to the U.N.
For now, all Ahmed Nuru and his sisters can do is try to scrape by and hope more assistance arrives soon.