Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: What is happening and how you can help

25 June 2021

Ethiopians who have arrived in Eastern Sudan are sitting under temporary shelters

Thousands of Ethiopians have now arrived in eastern Sudan. Credit: Norwegian Church Aid / Kristin Berg 

On 4 November 2020, armed conflict broke out between the regional government and the federal government in northern Ethiopia in the country’s Tigray region.

Media reports say that clashes between Ethiopian and Tigrayan forces continue in Tigray and over 1 million people are now thought to be displaced. Now, it is estimated that over 5 million people are in need and over 61,000 have fled to neighbouring Sudan.

Hunger is a major issue, with harvests impacted in November and December, and many people are in critical food security situations. Most health clinics have been destroyed or looted and are struggling to function.

Donate to the Ethiopia Tigray Crisis Appeal

What have world leaders said about the conflict?

Following the recent G7 meeting, world leaders released a statement commenting on the situation in Tigray:   

“We are deeply concerned by the ongoing conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and reports of an unfolding major humanitarian tragedy, including potentially hundreds of thousands in famine conditions.

“We call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces. We urge all parties to pursue a credible political process, which is the only solution to the crisis.” 

How is CAFOD responding to the crisis? 

We have a local presence in Ethiopia and are working with local church and aid agencies to respond to the crisis. We are supporting the work of the Ethiopian Catholic Church and Caritas Internationalis. 

Along with our local partners, we are:

  • supporting health clinics and pharmacies to provide vital care and to restock medicines and supplies
  • working with local experts and community support networks to provide psychosocial support to people and communities affected by the conflict
  • supporting with the delivery of temporary shelter materials, blankets, sleeping mats, cooking items and hygiene kits for families displaced by and made homeless by the conflict.

Our partner is working to provide emergency food aid to hundreds of thousands of people in need.

Working alongside the church in Ethiopia, Caritas Internationalis plans to deliver:

  • water to 30,000 people
  • nutrition support to over 50,000 children under 5
  • practical support like trauma and emergency kits along with hygiene facilities to help stop the spread of Covid-19.

This will be alongside longer-term support, which will include the provision of seeds, cash transfers and education materials.

Donate to the Ethiopia Tigray Crisis Appeal

What is the situation for the Ethiopians fleeing into Sudan?

By 20 January 2021, about 60,000 Ethiopian refugees had crossed the border with new arrivals continuing.

The refugees are being resettled into two main camps in Gedaref State after arriving through transit centres (Um Raquba and Tunaydbah).

“The heat can be unbearable.”

21-year-old Ethiopian refugee who fled to Sudan

While Um Raquba was already established as a camp and is reaching capacity, Tunaydbah is a new resettlement site that is now beginning to receive arrivals.

Our partner has established itself working in the new resettlement camp of Tunaydbah, where few actors are currently present and they have started to construct latrines for about 5,000 people.

Work in Tunaydbah faces additional challenges due to its lesser accessibility and black cotton soil which is poor for construction.

“The heat can be unbearable,” said a 21-year-old Ethiopian refugee who fled to Sudan to the UNHCR. 

Now grappling with another problem – heavy rains, which begin in May and last until October — her struggle with the extreme weather is shared with thousands of Ethiopians who arrived in Sudan with very few belongings. 

Rain and strong winds have already destroyed some shelters and latrines and resulted in flooding in some areas of the settlement, which hosts some 20,000 refugees.

What can I do to support the people affected by the conflict?

Although there is a lack of media attention, this is a huge humanitarian crisis. The people affected by the conflict will need our support for years to come in order to recover.

Donate to the Ethiopia Tigray Crisis Appeal

Pray for peace in Tigray

Our partners in Ethiopia respond to both emergencies and longer-term issues of poverty and injustice. You may have read about CAFOD's long-term development work in Ethiopia through our Lent Appeal and Abdella’s story of his struggle to access water each day. We are committed to continuing to support our partners and the people of Tigray in both humanitarian assistance and longer-term development.

Are CAFOD's local partners safe?

Our partners are safe and are trying to respond to the humanitarian crisis as best they can. 

What is the Ethiopian Church and Pope Francis saying about the escalating Tigray conflict?

On Sunday 13 June 2021, Pope Francis called for urgent aid to be sent to the people of Tigray who have been “struck by a grave humanitarian crisis that has exposed the poorest to famine” saying: "Today there is famine! There is hunger!”

He called for an urgent return of social harmony and for “all food aid and health care assistance to be guaranteed.” 

The Catholic Bishops of Ethiopia have appealed for peaceful dialogue. In a letter they said, "We urge parties to resolve their differences amicably, in a spirit of respect, understanding."

They hope and pray "for the people to live together in respect, concertation, and dialogue, and to work together for the prosperity of their common country".

Please join us in keeping the people of Ethiopia in your thoughts and prayers

Pope Francis has reiterated the same calls, appealing to the Ethiopian leaders to choose the path of peace, and inviting all Ethiopians “to prayer and to the fraternal respect for dialogue and the peaceful resolution of discord”.

What are the origins of the conflict?

Accusing the leadership of the Tigray region of attacking a military base, the Ethiopian government began military operations in the region.

The eruption of violence came after roughly two years of growing tensions between the government and the country’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, who ran Ethiopia for almost three decades.

What wider impact will the Tigray conflict have?

This conflict will have repercussions across the Horn of Africa. The UN chief Antonio Guterres has warned that "the stability of Ethiopia is important for the entire Horn of Africa region."

The UN estimates that 600,000 people in Tigray rely on food aid and across the country around 7 million people face food shortages.

There are growing health concerns for the spread of the coronavirus as people end up in large makeshift camps, without the basics - like clean water, and health care facilities - to protect themselves against the virus.

Donate to the Ethiopia Tigray Crisis Appeal

Pray for peace in Tigray

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