Disturbing reports of widespread abuses against civilians in Ethiopia‘s Tigray region have continued to emerge, nearly six months since the conflict broke out, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
NEW YORK, USA, April 20, 2021, – / African Media Agency (AMA) / – “There is no clear end in sight” to the conflict, said agency spokesman James Elder, after returning from a visit to the northern region of Ethiopia.
He said that more than a million people were displaced, noting that fighting was continuing and security remained a major issue. UNICEF had been “concerned from the beginning about the harm this is going to do to children, and sadly those fears are coming true.”
The conflict is the result of months of mounting tensions between the Ethiopian government and the dominant regional force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), culminating in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordering a military offensive after rebels attacked. a federal army base.
Within days, militias from the neighboring Amhara region had joined the fray, apparently followed by some troops from neighboring Eritrea, Tigray’s longtime rival.
According to the government, the region was secured at the end of November, however, the resistance of the TPLF has continued, amid accusations of extrajudicial executions and rights abuses on all sides.
Elder underscored the impact on women and girls, calling it a “protection crisis.”
He added: “What is really emerging now is a disturbing picture of serious and ongoing child violations, there is also unfortunately an education and nutrition emergency and I saw extensive destruction of essential service systems that children depend on.”
Among the million estimated displaced by the violence there are children who have suffered terribly, explained the UNICEF official.
300 km of walking in flip-flops
“The many children I spoke with, there was one, a 16-year-old girl, Merhawit, had walked 300 kilometers with her little brother on her back from the west of the country, in the middle of quite intense fighting … 300 kilometers and in a jump broken flops, ”he said.
“Those stories abound. He was a physics star and now he’s looking for food and hasn’t seen a classroom in a year. “
He was a physics star and now he’s foraging for food and hasn’t seen a classroom in a year: James Elder from UNICEF
Aside from the education crisis, the Tigray region is also in the grip of a nutritional emergency, linked to the looting and destruction of medical centers and expensive irrigation systems that farming communities cannot do without.
“We had a recent assessment in 13 cities and more than half of the wells are down,” Mr. Elder said. “It is important to remember that these were really advanced systems, supporting hundreds of thousands of people with generators and electrical circuits, all looted or destroyed.”
Vandalize and loot
The health centers have not been spared either, and most are already out of service.
This includes a new maternal health clinic specializing in emergency surgery for mothers that opened 100 kilometers from Mekelle that has been looted.
“Everything – X-ray machines, oxygen and mattresses for the patients – is gone,” Elder said. One doctor told me: “I had all the services a mother and baby needed. It was a place that saved lives. There was no reason for forces to come here. They came here to destroy and loot. “
The UNICEF spokesperson also urged all those with influence over the military actors involved in the conflict to condemn the rights abuses against civilians. Victims have reported “serious and continuing violations of the rights of the child,” he said.
“We have an average of three reported, reported cases of gender-based violence, remembering, of course, that this is probably the tip of the iceberg because reporting is very, very difficult for both … security and the cultural elements of shame. , etc. I heard traumatic stories from children as young as 14, heard reports of gang rape. “
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