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I don't know whether my husband is dead or alive

Tigray conflict – The story of Tigist

* The EU and the Tigray conflict: Scroll below for an overview of how the European Union has reacted to the crisis in the region so far.

When fighting broke out last year in Tigray, the northernmost regional state in Ethiopia, 25-year-old Tigist travelled tens of kilometres on foot to escape the crisis. She fled with two of her children, leaving her husband behind to try salvage the little they had in terms of savings and belongings.

“My husband stayed back in Tigray, and I don’t know whether he is dead or alive. We had a small bakery together and would use 25 kilograms of flour to make 700 loaves of bread. Each of us would then sell bread worth 1400 birr per day. We had also hired two women to assist us.’’

When Tigist arrived at the temporary centre for displaced people where she and her children now live, she received mattresses, blankets, jerry cans as well as corn and wheat. However, the family only receive just enough food to survive. 

The shelter is very small and men, women and children all crowd together in the same spaces, putting them at risk of disease and in fear of attacks and sexual violence at night.

“My elder daughter is a fourth-grade student. She resumed her studies after we arrived here, but goes to school every morning without any breakfast,” explains Tigist. “My three-year-old son is suffering from malnutrition. Sometimes I go to town in search of work. They pay me 50 birr (USD 1) which I use to buy more nutritious food such as grains to feed my children.”

“Generally, we are leading a very difficult life here. We have lost many of our relatives due to the conflict. Previously we were able to support ourselves but now we are relying on donations. We need help from an organisation take us out of this life and resettle us back in our villages.”

“We hope humanitarian agencies like Plan International can see our plight and help us economically. Also, we would like them to provide our children with nutritious foods and milk.”

THE EU AND THE TIGRAY CRISIS

The EU Council recently adopted its conclusions on the Council Conclusions on the "EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles". The text stresses the importance of respect for international humanitarian law at the heart of the EU’s external action, as well as ensuring the protection of civilians. It also underlines the importance of the nexus approach: the approach that brings together humanitarian, development and peace work.
As Plan International, we welcome these conclusions and remind EU institutions that the political intentions need to be supported by clear and concrete actions. Indeed, these conclusions come at a time of extremely high humanitarian needs. Humanitarian space is shrinking and there is a growing gap between funding that is needed and funding that is available – a gap perfectly showcased in the armed conflict of Tigray, Ethiopia.

Moreover, the Council adopted its Conclusions on EU-Ethiopia relations in March 2021, stressing the EU’s concerns regarding the situation in Tigray. The armed conflict exacerbates tensions in the Horn of Africa and could lead to military escalation and long-term instability.  In its conclusions, the EU urges all parties to immediately end violence, and ensure full, rapid and unhindered humanitarian access to all people in need in all areas.

PLAN INTERNATIONAL IN THE TIGRAY REGION

Plan International Ethiopia is responding to the Tigray crisis in the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions. We work to enhance the protection and improve the living conditions of affected girls by preventing different forms of violence and reducing the impacts of the crises. We will work with 560,000 IDPs and conflict-affected communities, specifically focusing on: 

  • Child protection and prevention of GBV; 
  • Nutrition and acute malnutrition targeting children under 5, pregnant and lactating women;
  • Access to WASH services and items; 
  • Safe and quality education for IDPs; 
  • Livelihood and Food Security.