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Women in Tigray

What's happening in Tigray?

A humanitarian crisis of unprecedented scale is affecting the Tigray region in northern Ethiopia. From November 2020 to November 2022, mass killings, sexual violence, looting, and famine were rampant. Residents are now grappling with the aftermath of a war that largely remained hidden from the world.

Humanitarian crisis in Tigray 

The war nodoby knew  

For two years, intense fighting occurred in Tigray, a semi-autonomous region in the East African nation of Ethiopia. The conflict claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands. Many more are now traumatized by the violent killings and rapes. Humanitarian workers and journalists had minimal access to the area, leaving the war largely hidden. 

1. How did the conflict in Tigray begin?  

In 2020, tensions escalated between the Tigray regional government and the central Ethiopian government. Elections were scheduled, but the government postponed them due to the corona pandemic. The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which had been in power in Ethiopia for nearly three decades, was angered by this delay. In November 2020, clashes broke out between the national and regional armies. A state of emergency was declared, and the TPLF was branded an enemy. The TPLF sought to restore its power and declare Tigray autonomous. No one anticipated the extent to which the conflict would escalate. 


2. What has happened in Tigray since then?  

Troops from neighbouring Eritrea, Amhara militias, and other factions joined the fight and occupied parts of the region. Hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians fled from the extreme violence and looting, often leaving everything behind in haste. Banks shut down, and food supplies dwindled. Millions in Tigray barely survived due to lack of food and water. With journalists denied access, few knew of the tragedies unfolding in Tigray. After several failed attempts, a ceasefire was signed between the Ethiopian government and the rebel groups in November 2022. Stories emerging from the war are horrifying, with all warring parties committing war crimes. Many were killed, raped, and robbed. 

ZOA werkers in Tigray

3. Why don't people flee to safer areas outside Tigray? 

Ethiopia comprises diverse ethnic groups, and Tigrayans are not welcome everywhere. The nation has a history of ethnic conflicts and is susceptible to droughts, floods, and disease outbreaks, further straining social dynamics. Of the 6 million Tigrayans, millions are displaced, with about 70,000 fleeing to Sudan. However, conflict broke out in Sudan in April, making it unsafe as well. 

4. What are the most pressing needs now?  

Refugees and internally displaced people from Tigray are in dire need of clean drinking water, food, shelter, clothing, and bedding. Many still live in deplorable conditions, sometimes sleeping under the open sky. Additionally, hundreds of thousands are traumatized. Families have been torn apart; many parents have lost their children, and children their parents. Countless women were raped multiple times. Many mourn the loss of their loved ones and belongings. 

5. What is ZOA doing in Ethiopia?  

ZOA has been present in Ethiopia since 1993, supporting refugees, the internally displaced, and the vulnerable local population. Ethiopia hosts many refugees from neighbouring countries like Eritrea, South Sudan, and Somalia. Many Eritrean refugees were in camps in northern Tigray. In November 2020, 300 Eritrean refugees were killed in the Hitsats camp. ZOA's office in Hitsats was looted, and a colleague was killed. Still, local ZOA workers continued their efforts throughout the two-year conflict, trying to assist fellow Ethiopians in need. 

ZOA helpt met potten en pannen

6. How is ZOA assisting in Tigray?  

During the conflict, ZOA established an emergency office in the capital, Mek'ele. Working alongside other aid organisations in the Dutch Relief Alliance, ZOA provides clean drinking water, food, sanitation facilities, and essential items like mattresses, pots, and pans. Even after the ceasefire, work in refugee camps continues. ZOA aids the displaced from the west and locals who have lost everything.