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Catholic Priest in Ethiopia Warns of Looming “irreparable disaster” in Tigrayan Crisis

Flag of Ethiopia/ Credit: Shutterstock

The humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region is deteriorating, with a Catholic Priest in the Horn of Africa country warning of a looming disaster that he says may not be reversed once the crisis is over.

Fr. Abba Abraha Hagos, the Diocesan Director of the Catholic Secretariat of Adigrat (ADCS), told the information service of Propaganda Fide, Agenzia Fides, that suffering has become the daily reality of the people in the Northernmost regional state of Ethiopia.

“The entire population has been deprived of all the fundamental rights of every human being: the right to live with dignity, the right to security, education, food, water, to receive humanitarian assistance,” Fr. Hagos says in the Wednesday, January 19 Agenzia Fides report.

He adds, “The daily reality of the country is of suffering, death, lack of medicines for preventable diseases. Any further delay will end in irreparable disaster for human lives and the social fabric of an entire generation.”

Agenzia Fides notes that millions of children in Tigray are suffering from severe malnutrition and that many people, including the internally displaced, are already starving.

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“Everywhere disease and death, especially children, the elderly, people at high risk due to chronic diseases and COVID-19,” the report by Agenzia Fides indicates.

From the beginning of November 2020 until mid-June 2021, the ADCS and the Religious Congregations operating under the Eparchy contributed to saving lives affected by war, Agenzia Fides reports.

Due to multiple constraints, including security restrictions on movement and access, the cash withdrawal limit, and the shortage of basic supplies in the market, humanitarian aid has been limited to the cities and areas around the main roads, the information service of Propaganda Fide further reports.

In the January 19 report, Fr. Hagos says that the situation in Tigray is further aggravated by the blockade of land and air transport.

“Like other humanitarian organizations, we have not been able to continue responding to emergencies, reach people affected by war and alleviate their suffering,” he says in a report he shared with Agenzia Fides.

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The situation in Ethiopia remains tense 14 months after the start of a war that has spread beyond the Tigray region where it began on 4 November 2020.

Media reports indicate that tentative signs of calm date back to the pre-Christmas 2021 period, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) declared a unilateral ceasefire and an unconditional withdrawal from the Amhara and Afar regions.

Media reports further indicate that TPLF announced its intention to return to Tigray and “open the doors to humanitarian aid”, thus raising hopes of initial relief for the tens of thousands of civilians forced by the conflict to starve or flee.

Highlighting Tigray’s dire situation, Agenzia Fides reports, “It is an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with each passing day, each passing hour, hundreds of innocent victims lose their lives.”

“Since the beginning of the fighting in Tigray, and in particular since June 28, 2021 to the present day, the ongoing war, accompanied by indiscriminate air strikes with fighters, helicopters and drones, has caused an unprecedented crisis. Ethnic-based attacks and massacres of civilians, destruction of homes and displacement of millions of people, rampant gender-based violence, which has destroyed the families and lives of women and girls, devastation of the economy, institutions and social infrastructure, destruction of cultural and religious heritages,” the news agency reports, adding, “Millions of people are psychologically destroyed, terrified.”

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Fr. Hagos told Agenzia Fides that the Catholic Diocese of Adigrat, which covers the whole of Tigray, is immersed in “an extremely alarming crisis that needs an urgent response from partners, other humanitarian organizations and the international community.”

“We would like to invite all our partners and other humanitarian aid organizations to continue to urge and lobby international communities, the United Nations, humanitarian rights organizations, international government agencies and international diplomacy, to exert pressure for dialogue policy for peace and for unrestricted access to humanitarian aid, basic services and supplies, which are a natural right for human beings,” the Catholic Priest says.