From the Field

Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

In Ethiopia, the ongoing Tigray conflict creates a dire humanitarian crisis. Learn what World Vision is doing to help affected children and families.

In northern Ethiopia, the war-torn Tigray region is facing a dire humanitarian crisis as ongoing conflict drives children and families from homes and deeper into despair. At least 2.6 million children and adults need life-saving aid, many of whom are displaced within the region and across regional borders due to escalation of violence in the Tigray region, which borders Eritrea. An estimated 62,255 more children and adults fled homes and livelihoods in Tigray in search of shelter in Sudan.

“We were caught up in crossfire of heavy armament shelling,” says Yonas, a 12-year-old boy whose family escaped conflict in his town of Shire.

Yonas joins a growing number of children who need food, access to clean water, and shelter as they seek refuge in camps throughout Ethiopia.

The third grader says he walked for nearly 60 miles to reach a village, where houses were set ablaze — like his home was — before he and his family traveled to a camp for displaced families in Mekelle, Ethiopia. “I have been experiencing severe thirst. … There is no water, no food,” he says.

Children like Yonas face increased risks of hunger, abuse, and separation from their parents as they’re displaced in Ethiopia, the second-most populous country in Africa, or flee as refugees into neighboring Sudan. Children are “in acute need of protection and assistance,” according to UNICEF.

The United Nations Human Rights Council is investigating reports of killings and sexual violence in Tigray that may amount to war crimes. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet says: “Deeply distressing reports of sexual and gender-based violence, extrajudicial killings, widespread destruction and looting of public and private property by all parties continue to be shared with us, as well as reports of continued fighting in central Tigray in particular.”

In Ethiopia's Tigray region, ongoing conflict creates a dire humanitarian crisis. Learn what World Vision is doing to help affected children and families.
Fourteen-year-old Samrawit and her mother live in a camp in Shire for people displaced by the Tigray conflict in northern Ethiopia. “We suddenly left our village when we heard gunfire,” she says. “I don’t know the whereabouts of my father.” She had dreams of finishing school to become a doctor. Now, her future is uncertain. “Now I need food to eat and to hug my beloved father,” Samrawit says of her hopes. (©2021 World Vision/photo by Kebede Gizachew)

Before conflict erupted in November 2020, families struggled with decimated crops, food shortages, inflated food and fuel prices, and an overburdened healthcare system due to recurrent drought, desert locust, and the spread of COVID-19.

World Vision is deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of children made extremely vulnerable by recent conflict. We’ve helped nearly 767,000 people so far with services such as access to clean water, food, and emergency shelter in Tigray.

“World Vision Ethiopia asks for your prayers and support at this difficult and challenging time, as we accompany the children of Ethiopia during the crisis,” says Edward Brown, World Vision Ethiopia national director.

FAQS: What you need to know about the Tigray conflict.

Explore facts and frequently asked questions about the Tigray conflict and resulting crisis, and learn how to help Tigray refugees and displaced families within Ethiopia.

Fast facts: Tigray conflict

  • Tigray is located in Ethiopia’s northernmost region, bordering Eritrea.
  • On November 4, 2020, conflict erupted between the Ethiopian federal government’s military forces and allies of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
  • Fighting has forced about 62,255 children and adults to abandon their homes and livelihoods in Tigray to find shelter in neighboring Sudan.
  • Millions of vulnerable children and their families seek safer places within Ethiopia, such as the Amhara and Afar regions.


What’s happening in Tigray?

Tigray was one of the poorest regions in Ethiopia long before the recent spike in violence. Hundreds of thousands relied on food assistance even under good harvest seasons. Prior to the conflict, more than 1 million people in the region needed aid and more than 600,000 people were hungry, according to the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“There were already hundreds of thousands of people reliant on food aid. This was only exacerbated when desert locusts ravaged parts of the country, further depleting food stocks for many vulnerable families,” says Karmen Till, senior director of Integrated Programs for World Vision in Ethiopia. “In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, erratic rainfall, and localized flooding and drought, the recent wave of insecurity and displacement in Tigray has only deepened the suffering of too many vulnerable people.”

Extreme violence and abuse; looting; food shortages; destruction of hospitals, clinics, buildings, and schools; and closure of banks are driving vulnerable families to flee war-torn Tigray for safer Amhara and Afar regions, or to neighboring Sudan.

“Many vulnerable families face a long and difficult road to recovery — all while their future is uncertain and unstable,” Karmen says.

The World Health Organization estimates that only 22% of healthcare facilities are functional and 78% of hospitals in the region are no longer accessible.

Recent conflict involves the Ethiopian federal government’s military forces and allies of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The conflict is the latest in a string of disastrous events for the country — the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing desert locust and armyworm plagues, and erratic rainfall that has resulted in flooding and drought. These are compounded by the displacement of more than 3 million people due to ethnic violence in recent years.


How many Tigray refugees are there?

An estimated 62,255 children and adults fled their homes and livelihoods in Tigray as refugees in search of safety in Sudan. The conflict has also forced millions of vulnerable children and their families to seek safer places within Ethiopia, such as the Amhara and Afar regions.


How can I help Tigray refugees in Sudan and people displaced in Ethiopia?

  • Pray: Dear Father, we pray for the children and families of the Tigray region who are suffering. We lift up the needs of people caught up in conflict — refugees, displaced families, and aid workers.
  • Give: Become a vital partner in World Vision’s work to help displaced and refugee children and families.


How is the Tigray conflict affecting children?

UNICEF estimates that 2.6 million children and adults are in need of humanitarian aid in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where hunger, illness, and violence threaten their safety. According to UNICEF, 1.3 million children are out of school due to prolonged disruption of schooling because of the COVID-19 pandemic and conflict in Tigray. World Vision is deeply concerned for the safety and well-being of children affected by the Tigray conflict.


What is World Vision doing to help people affected by the Tigray conflict?

World Vision is one of the first nongovernmental organizations to respond with need assessments and aid in conflict-affected Tigray.

Our teams in Ethiopia are coordinating with other humanitarian organizations to provide displaced families with food, emergency shelter, and non-food items, access to clean water, and sanitation and hygiene facilities. We’re partnering with healthcare facilities to ensure families have necessary supplies, providing support to rehabilitate damaged schools so children can learn in safe environments.

On December 9, World Vision staff delivered $12,000 worth of sanitary medical supplies to Alamata Hospital, an infirmary that was overwhelmed with patients with severe malnourishment, malaria, and water-related diseases. According to World Vision staff, the hospital ran out of medical supplies, was understaffed, and had no ability to pay salaries or provide for their medical personnel, many of whom fled north to Mekele.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation,” says Edward. “Not only are thousands of children severely impacted by this crisis without electricity, water, and food for over a month, but our own staff and families are in the same boat.”

World Vision has provided more than $450,000 in multipurpose cash assistance to vulnerable families most affected by the Tigray conflict. Cash assistance helps address the immediate needs of children and internally displaced people.

Leteberhan, a 45-year-old mother, expressed gratitude for being able to use the cash to buy nourishment for her five children. “Thank you very much for providing us with this cash support,” she says. “I will buy some foodstuff from the market to feed my children.”

Since November, World Vision has helped:

  • 8,910 people with shelter and non-food items
  • 231,279 people with access to clean water
  • 9,449 people with food aid
  • 32,022 people with multipurpose cash assistance
  • 478,500 individuals with health services
  • 7,150 children and adults with protection services


How much programming does World Vision have in Tigray?

For 21 years, World Vision has served the most vulnerable people in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, where we operate seven area programs. There are also 11 projects in Tigray supported by grants and generous donors. World Vision supports 19,254 sponsored children in Ethiopia, where we’re implementing integrated programs including clean water, sanitation, and hygiene behavior change (WASH), livelihood and food security, education and life skills, health and nutrition, child protection, and community engagement through child sponsorship.

The generosity of World Vision sponsors impacted more than 8 million Ethiopian children and families in 2019 with food and nutrition; education; clean water, sanitation, and hygiene; and healthcare. Programs helped improve the livelihoods of farmers, lower neonatal death rates, and create more access to nutritious food and sustainable income for nearly 600,000 people in rural communities. Prior to the recent conflict, more than 2.4 million displaced families and refugees have been supported with essential supplies

“Our response prevents further destruction and death and contributes towards a sustainable and just peace,” Edward says.


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