Crisis unabated

UNICEF continues responding to the needs of women and children affected by conflict in northern Ethiopia

By Demissew Bizuwerk and Mulugeta Ayene
Debarke
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene
29 September 2021

The northern Ethiopia conflict displaced hundreds of thousands of people, mainly women and children, away from their homes and livelihoods. The north Gondar Zone of the Amhara region, which borders the Tigray region, is hosting over 74,000 IDPs of which Debark town alone hosts 46,000. Many of the displaced are either staying with host communities or sheltering inside buildings that are still under-construction and schools which are over-crowded and unsanitary. Since the displacement started, UNICEF is on the ground providing critical lifesaving support in coordination with the regional government and other NGO partners. 

Lemlem
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

Lemlem Getaneh left her village in the town of Zarema with her family when conflict broke out in mid-August. “We left our home suddenly, fearing that we might be caught up in the middle of the attacks. We walk for five hours before we find a vehicle,” she says.

Lemlem makes a living farming with her husband. “My husband’s father has an irrigation canal. We farm, banana, mango, lime and other vegetables. My husband is a hardworking man. We even harvest during summer. We sell our produce in the local market making a good income. But now we have lost everything.”    

Lemlem is now staying in Millennium primary school in the town of Debark with thousands of other displaced people.

  

Enanu Addis
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

Enanu Addis has been displaced twice due to the northern Ethiopia conflict. First, she was displaced from the town of Shire in the Tigray region, where she was working and came to Zarema. After staying in Zarema for two weeks, she was again forced to leave the town when the conflict spread into North Gondar Zone. “I left with only my clothes and few belongings, nothing else,” she says. Enanu is not sure what the future holds for her. But at the heart of her wish list is peace. “I pray that peace prevails in our country!” 

Melat Ayenew
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

Melat Ayalew, 9, picks flowers inside a school compound in the town of Debarke where thousands of displaced people are staying.  She left her small village of Buya after conflict ravaged her life. “When we hear the gun shots me and my brother hide under the bed,” she says. Melat was in 3rd grade attending school with her best friends Arsema, Eden and Tsehay. “I miss being with them [her friends], playing with them. I don’t know where they are now. I also think about my home my school…”   

Debarke Town
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

Debark, a town in the North Gondar Zone of the Amhara region, is 2,850 meters above sea level. It is one of the coldest areas in Ethiopia. Temperatures in the rainy season (June – September) fall below 10 degrees in the early morning and late night, making it hard to bear for the displaced people who left their homes with few or no belongings.  

Serkalem Tsega
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

Serkalem Tsega saw hundreds of people flock to her hometown of Zarema after they were displaced from northern towns like Shire and Mai Tsebri. Sadly, the conflict also came to her town in mid-August and she left for safety to Debark. “When we arrive here, it was late and raining. We don’t know where to stay and many more people were in a similar situation,” she says. “I worked day and night to raise my children. I worry that their future is jeopardized. I am not educated, but I make sure that my children got the best in life. Hope better days will come to them.” 

Response
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene
Response
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

Immediately responding to the crisis, UNICEF distributed critical lifesaving supplies such as emergency drug kits, high energy biscuits and therapeutic food to treat malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers. Health workers from nearby health facilities are also deployed to run mobile clinics which offer emergency health and nutrition services. UNICEF also provided tents, mattresses, water tankers, buckets, water treatment chemicals and other hygiene supplies.

Response
UNICEF Ethiopia/2021/Mulugeta Ayene

UNICEF is also working closely with the North Gondar Zone women, children and youth department to trace and reunite separated children with their families. In addition, UNICEF is supporting mental health and psycho-social support services and activities to prevent gender-based violence.