Suffering continues while African leaders try to come to terms at South African conference.
Catholic aid agencies in Ethiopia are praying for a good outcome to peace talks now underway between the country’s federal government and Tigrayan rebel forces. Their humanitarian work – but more importantly, the lives of millions of people – depend on it.
The conflict that began almost two years ago, when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an invasion of the northern Tigray region, has killed thousands of civilians and uprooted millions, according to Reuters.
Earlier this month, the New York Times gave an idea of how the conflict is affecting the local population:
Ethiopian drone strikes hit a kindergarten in August, killing several children, and a U.N. food truck in late September. An airstrike on Tuesday in Adi Da’ero, near the border with Eritrea, hit a center for refugees, killing at least 50 people, said two humanitarian officials in the area who spoke on the condition of anonymity for their safety.
The stakes for civilians in northern Ethiopia were outlined in a September 22 report by U.N. investigators that accused both sides of war crimes, including massacres and sexual assaults. But it singled out Mr. Abiy’s forces for “using starvation as a method of warfare” and for “sexual slavery” of Tigrayan women held in military camps.
At Tigray’s largest hospital, doctors say that patients are dying from cancer, kidney disease, and other treatable conditions for want of medicines. A recent study found that newborn babies in Tigray are dying at four times the prewar rate.
On October 17, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that, “the situation in Ethiopia is spiraling out of control. Violence and destruction have reached alarming levels. The social fabric is being ripped apart. (…) Civilians are paying a horrific price. Indiscriminate attacks — including in residential areas — are killing more innocent people every day, damaging critical infrastructure and limiting access to vital services. Hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes since hostilities resumed in August, many of them for the second time. We are also hearing disturbing accounts of sexual violence and other acts of brutality against women, children and men.”