As humanitarian crisis unfolds in Tigray, UNICEF steps up its lifesaving response
Since November last year, UNICEF has provided WASH, health, nutrition, and child protection assistance to 425,000 people.
The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview estimates that about 4.5 million people in Tigray Region are currently in need of humanitarian assistance. UNICEF’s Tigray Emergency Response Plan aims to reach 2.8 million people, of whom 1.3 million are children.
Since November last year, UNICEF has provided WASH, health, nutrition, and child protection assistance to 425,000 people. Some 900 metric tons of emergency supplies amounting to US$ 2 million have been distributed through regional bureaus and 12 NGO partners to the most vulnerable refugees, IDPs and host communities.
As access to the region eases, UNICEF is stepping up its humanitarian effort. Supplies worth US$10 million are in the pipeline and additional staff are being sent to the Region. UNICEF Communication Officer Demissew Bizuwerk was recently in Mai Tsebri in southern Tigray and met women and children at an IDP site. He captures their stories in this photo essay.
Birkey Negassi carries her two-year-old son Haftom Zenebe at Mai Tsebri site for the internally displaced. The conflict in Tigray has ruined her life and her livelihood. Birkey attended school up to grade 8 where she says she was an average student. She got married at 17 and provided for her young family by running a bar in the small town of Korarit in western Tigray while her husband tended to the farm.
When the conflict reached her village, everything changed.
“I lost all my belongings, the chairs, the refrigerator, even our cattle,” she says. “Life was good before we came here. I don’t know why this is happening to us.”
After walking for a week, she and her family arrived at the Mai Tsebri IDP site on 10 December.
Birkey fetches water at a UNICEF-supported water point at the IDP site, with her son Haftom strapped on her back. She makes sure her son is clean and nourished despite all the challenges at the IDP site. Shelter is in short supply and the site suffers from overcrowding. Through its partner the International Rescue Committee (IRC), UNICEF trucks water for displaced people in Mai Tsebri on a daily basis.
Birkey’s son Haftom (2) is adjusting to his new environment at the Mai Tsebri IDP site surrounded by people he has never seen before. Overcrowding puts him and other children at risk of communicable diseases but his mother Birkey is determined to keep him healthy and eventually send him to school. She wishes for her son to become a doctor and fulfil a dream she was unable to achieve.
The conflict in Tigray has displaced hundreds of thousands and brought untold misery on those affected. There are no clear numbers on how many displaced people are currently sheltering in Mai Tsebri. Humanitarian agencies estimate 25,000 IDPs, of which nearly 17,000 are hosted by the community while the rest are staying at a camp formerly used to train militias.
At the stabilization centre in Mai Tsebri Primary Hospital, 3-year-old Mulu Hagos takes therapeutic milk. She is suffering from acute malnutrition and is also being treated for pneumonia. Her mother Teje brought her to the hospital after she was sick for days with vomiting and diarrhea.
“I was worried when she became very weak,” says Teje, who had to walk for an hour to bring Mulu to the hospital. “I am glad that she is in good hands here.”
UNICEF is providing health facilities in conflict-affected areas in Tigray that are serving IDPs, refugees, and the host communities with emergency drug kits procured through funding from the UK government. The Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) and therapeutic milks, which are used to treat children with acute malnutrition, are supplied with funding from the United States Agency for International Development.
Adequate stocks of RUTF have been prepositioned at Mia Tsebri Primary Hospital for immediate treatment of children at the hospital and health centers in the town. The IRC plans to kick-start mobile health and nutrition teams and re-establish primary health care services.
Health worker Mengistu Atalay attends to a newborn baby, asphyxiated at birth, in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Mai Tsebri Primary Hospital.
The Mai Tsebri Primary Hospital was fortunate to survive the destruction seen at other health care facilities in Tigray. Although some offices in the administrative building were looted, the hospital was spared from attack or vandalism and it continued providing services throughout the conflict, thanks to its dedicated staff.