Despite a signed peace agreement in November 2022 between the Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces, people living in the Afar region continue to face immense suffering as they embark on their fragile transition from violent conflict to recovery.
Updates on the current situation in northern Ethiopia:
An estimated 13 million people in northern Ethiopia need food assistance- including 1.2 million in the Afar region (Ethiopian Humanitarian Response plan, 2023). This has led to severe food insecurity and malnutrition. Over 40,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, with overall malnutrition rates for under 5-year-olds ranging from 33% to a shocking 45% in early January 2023 (APDA, 2023).
- Ethiopia is experiencing an unprecedented inflation rate -driven by the devaluation of local currency, increased government spending related to the armed conflict, COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions and the effects of the war in Ukraine, which continues to increase prices of imported fuel and fertiliser.
- With communication services in Tigray and Afar sporadic and interrupted, the exact number of casualties is unknown, however the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (2022) reported there have been at least 10,000 deaths and 230 massacres.
- Over 3 billion Ethiopian Birr (£46.6 million) worth of infrastructure has been destroyed, including thousands of schools. The effect of this on children’s education is devastating – with as many as 60% of Afar school-age rural children not currently learning (APDA, 2023).
Number of attacks in Ethiopia from November 2020 to August 2022
The main challenges people are now facing
Pastoralism is at the core of people’s livelihoods in Afar, and not only has the Tigray conflict had a detrimental effect on agriculture production but communities are also facing one of the most severe droughts following four consecutive failed rainy seasons since late 2020. During 2022 there was a heavy increase in the number of new severely acute malnutrition cases- with more than 30,000 children being treated in health facilities compared to 2021 (Reliefweb, 2022).
Since January 2023, there has been a slight ease-off from the exorbitantly high market inflation, – with a country-wide inflation rate of 33.7% as of late December – while in Afar Region, particularly in the remote outreaches, it is still around 50 to 60% (APDA, 2023).
Thousands of herds have been killed (including cows, camels, and goats) by the deadly drought, even the most adaptable communities are struggling. Animals that have survived, are generally in poor shape. Milk production – a significant contribution to household incomes and child nutrition – is just a fraction of normal output, and the overall fertility of the animals has also fallen.
APDA’s Food Security and Livelihood programme is needed more than ever – to make sure people have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food .
Last year, your support was truly lifesaving. Together we provided protein food to over 500 malnourished mothers and animal feed to 3,500 goats in the worst-affected and hard to reach areas.
More than 7,000 schools have been damaged as a result of the conflict, with 1.42 million students unable to attend classes in the affected regions (OCHA, 2022). The Ethiopian Ministry of Education estimates that 48,500 teachers are in need of counselling and mental health support, and that some teachers at private schools are struggling to feed their families due to unpaid salaries (Human Rights Watch, 2022).
The soaring inflation has increased the price of primary education dramatically; in October 2020 it was £1.30 (85 ETB) to set up a primary school child in learning, now it is minimum £6.21 (400 ETB), leaving many families unable to send their children to school.
APDA estimates that as many as 60% of Afar school-age rural children are not learning, with 75% of their parents being almost illiterate. There is a serious lack of Afar literature – children’s books and books for all ages on all topics is utterly needed. APDA aims to provide informal education to children in Afar who are now out of education due to conflicts.
The health of pregnant women and mothers and babies during the Tigray conflict has been severely affected by limited access to maternal health services – due to safety, financial and geographical restrictions, as well as the complete collapse of the health system. Last year, APDA witnessed three hospitals becoming damaged, ambulances being burnt, and essential equipment being looted. As mothers in hard-to-reach areas were not treated, this resulted in 26 preventable tragedies within the community. In order to prevent unnecessary maternal death there is a critical need for APDA to preserve functioning health systems, provide a second ambulance and give obstetrics and gynaecology training to the rural team.
In more positive news, the Barbara May Maternity Hospital in central Afar saved the life of two mothers in December 2022 who both had ruptured uteruses from prolonged labour, and delivered triplets by a caesarean to a mother who had previously lost two babies (pictured).
Armed conflict affects the female population disproportionately. Women and girls in Afar are particularly vulnerable to experiencing sexual violence, poor reproductive health, unwanted pregnancy, and mental health difficulties.
APDA’s extension workers provide unwavering support to girls in the community who are suffering and feel threatened for their lives. In order to carry on with their life-changing services, the extension workers urgently require greater awareness and recognition and professional training to enable more women to become qualified social workers.
In 2021, Ethiopiaid created a new Emergency and Recovery Fund. Last year, thanks to your generous support, we were able to send an incredible £211,000 to help with humanitarian needs and long-term recovery efforts. This meant that we could respond swiftly to our partners’ needs and keep thousands of people from slipping further into poverty.
But our work is not done. We welcome donations towards keeping this fund going, so that we can help our partners become more resilient to future crises and protect even more of Ethiopia’s most vulnerable women, men and children.