Report from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on the fighting in Tigray

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Fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people. Inside Tigray, most of the displaced people stay with the host community, while tens of thousands live in informal sites or are still hiding in the bush or the mountains.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation of hundreds of thousands of people who have been deprived of medical care for months and have received little humanitarian assistance.

Thirty-year old Aster* sits in the waiting area of MSF’s primary health clinic at a site for displaced people in Shire. She is eight months pregnant and has come for an antenatal check- up. She fled with her husband and two young children from a village in Western Tigray when fighting broke out in November, and now lives with a local family. She says she feels stressed. “I
have not received any food aid. We are getting some food from the people we are staying with, but it is not enough, “says Aster. “Sometimes, I go out to beg. If they don’t give me anything, we sometimes sleep without having eaten. It is difficult to be dependent. It makes me empty inside. Before, the children had regular meals”.

Tens of thousands of people have arrived in Shire, a large town in North West Tigray, since fighting broke out in November. Most are from Western Tigray. The majority stay with the host community, but almost 20,000 people live in informal sites. They sleep in cramped and often unhygienic conditions in the classrooms of several schools, as well as on the campus of Shire University.

Shire hospital serves a population of more than one million people in the area. After fighting broke out in the city, many staff members did not return to work for a long time, some out of fear for their safety, others out of a lack of motivation because they did not receive any salary. Both staff and patients had no food at the beginning, and when MSF arrived, we supplied the hospital kitchen with food and cleaned the facility as no cleaners had come for weeks. The hospital was not badly looted, but there have been many robberies at night in the past few months because no staff was present. MSF is supporting the pediatric ward, the in-patient therapeutics feeding center as well as water and waste management activities at the hospital.

Most of the staff has now returned and Shire hospital is almost fully functional.  However, many issues remain – such as a lack of supplies, power cuts and security issues for patients, especially at night. Apart from the emergency unit, the wards are not busy. Unlike before the crisis, few
patients from rural areas are coming now. The referral system has collapsed and without ambulances, insecurity in many areas and many people not being able to afford the transportation costs to the city, many find it impossible to get to the hospital.”

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*Names have been changed to protect anonymity and photos taken from our library

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