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International Catholic Entity Struggling to Access War Victims in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

Tigray region of Ethiopia

The Catholic Pontifical Organization, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) International, is experiencing difficulties delivering aid to victims of the ongoing violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the leadership of the charity has said and appealed to authorities in the Horn of Africa country to improve the region’s accessibility.

In a Monday, January 25 report, the leadership of ACN notes that the Tigray region has become “isolated from the rest of the world.”

“The situation in Northern Ethiopia is alarming. Communication is very precarious and for almost three weeks the region has been totally isolated from the rest of the world,” ACN Project Manager, Regina Lynch says.

She adds in reference to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, “No internet or telephone. But the news we get from those who have been able to visit the area is terrible.”

Insecurity has spiked up in the Tigray region that was plunged into violence on November 4 last year after Ethiopia’s government ordered a military offensive against the authorities in the region that borders Eritrea and Sudan.

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The offensive was reportedly triggered by the alleged attack on the federal military’s Northern Command stationed in the region by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The conflict has resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of some 950,000 people, Reuters reported.

The International Rescue Committee has reported that over 21 million people in the region are in need of humanitarian aid.

In the January 25 ACN report, Ms. Lynch says that people are resorting to desperate means to escape the attacks that have claimed lives of many, including Catholic Priests and other Church leaders.

“Hundreds of citizens are being killed in the conflicts in the Tigray region. Nobody knows for sure the number of dead, but we have been told that there are Priests and church leaders among them,” Ms. Lynch says.

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She adds, “Shops, schools, churches and convents have been robbed and destroyed. Thousands of people have fled their homes. Many have crossed the border into Sudan, but others have sought refuge in remote areas, in the mountains, without water or access to food.”

And in one of the recently reported deadliest attacks, at least 750 people were allegedly killed in the wake of an attack on an Oriental Orthodox church in Ethiopia’s warrying region.

With regard to the massacre, Ms. Lynch says, “We have not been able to verify the exact details of what would be a real massacre.”

She goes on to explain the challenges of verifying allegations in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, “Travel in the region is not currently possible and communications are very restricted, but we have received confirmation of a series of killings and attacks on innocent people in many parts of the region and also in the Aksum area. The population is terrified.”

Meanwhile, some reports indicate that almost 2.3 million people, or nearly half of the population, need aid as fighting goes on in the Tigray region, which has also been said to remain inaccessible.

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Media reports further indicate that schools, hospitals and administrative offices in Tigray have been looted and damaged and that only five out of 40 hospitals in the area are physically accessible, with another four reachable by mobile networks.

“Regional and local bureaucratic hurdles were preventing some agencies getting into Tigray, despite clearance from the federal government,” Reuters reports, adding, “It also said humanitarian supplies and equipment were being looted in some areas.”

The isolation of the Tigray region makes it very difficult to send aid, explains the ACN Foundation’s project manager, while asking for support for Ethiopia and especially for the region of Tigray.

“It is a political problem, but those who are paying with their lives are the citizens and civilians. This is a terrible situation,” says Ms. Lynch.

She adds, “The suffering of so many people must be alleviated, and comfort must be given to our Christian brothers and sisters who are isolated from the world in a situation of anguish, threatened by violence and terror.”

“At the moment it is almost impossible to access information; but we are looking for solutions to see how to support the local church. In the meantime, we ask everyone to join in prayer for this country, its church and its people,” the ACN official says in the January 25 report obtained by ACI Africa.