Crisis grips families in northern Ethiopia
Conflict in the region has left millions of children in need of humanitarian assistance.
* This page was updated 3 November 2021
One year since conflict erupted in northern Ethiopia and there is still no end in sight for children and families suffering devastating impacts on their health and well-being.
Around 7 million people are in need of assistance – nearly half of them children. Tens of thousands of families are facing a malnutrition crisis that is taking place amid extensive, systematic damage to the health, nutrition, water and sanitation systems and services that children depend on for their survival. The risk of disease outbreaks is high, particularly in sites hosting the more than 2 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) across the Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions.
UNICEF is on the ground, working with partners to support communities with safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, and providing health, nutrition and education services to help keep children healthy and learning.
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A growing malnutrition crisis
Fighting in November 2020 broke out just as people should have been harvesting, leaving families without an income for the year. Many families also had cattle stolen and have lost access to fertilisers and vaccines for their livestock.
The rates of malnutrition among pregnant and breastfeeding women are consistently over 45 per cent, threatening the lives of newborn babies and their mothers.
UNICEF has been supporting nutrition screening services and therapeutic feeding programmes that have been providing life-saving treatment. UNICEF has also provided cartons of ready-to-use therapeutic food and therapeutic milk to ensure young children get the treatment they need.
The malnutrition emergency in the region has coincided with extensive damage to essential systems and services. Health facilities have been looted or damaged, and children lack access to basic health services especially routine immunizations.
In addition, destruction of water infrastructure has caused an extreme scarcity of safe drinking water. The damage could lead to outbreaks of disease, putting malnourished children at even greater risk of death.
UNICEF has therefore been working with partners to supply water through rehabilitated boreholes and water trucking, including to internally displaced persons hosted at displacement sites, and supplying desperately needed hygiene supplies. UNICEF is also deploying mobile health teams to vulnerable communities to provide vital health services.
In addition to the nutrition emergency, the ongoing violence and upheaval leaves the region confronting a protection crisis. Thousands of children have been separated from their parents and caregivers, and there have also been horrendous accounts of women and children having been subjected to sexual violence.
UNICEF has been setting up temporary learning spaces for internally displaced children and host communities in areas where schools are damaged or occupied. UNICEF has provided psychosocial support to tens of thousands of children and their caregivers across the conflict-affected northern regions since the conflict began.
Across the three regions, nearly 2.7 million school aged children, nearly half girls, are out of school due to the conflict. Thousands of schools are completely or partially damaged and many are used as IDP sites.
However, UNICEF has been working with partners to help reopen schools through the Bete (My Home) programme, which provides both education and child protection services.
UNICEF’s aim is to reach every child across the region with critical health, nutrition, water, sanitation, education and protection services. But more than anything, the region’s children and their families need an immediate cessation of hostilities so that they can safely obtain life-saving services and begin to rebuild their lives.