Horn Highlights: Amnesty launches Ethiopia campaign amidst failing media attention, Horn drought has major impact on children

In this week’s Horn Highlights: Amnesty International sections launch campaign to raise awareness on Ethiopia; Increase in child marriage due to drought, states UNICEF; US welcomes Tigray withdrawal from Afar; 2 muslims killed in clash in Addis Ababa; Severe environmental impact on Tigray a setback for the region; Malnourishment high among children and pregnant women in Tigray; TPLF accuses OCHA of misrepresenting Western Tigray areas as Amhara region; Ethiopian government says that soldiers who requested asylum in Sudan are victims of propaganda; Health workers say that healthcare in Tigray is failing; Protests take place on anniversary of al-Bashir’s ousting in Sudan.

Greater Horn of Africa

Ethiopia: Campaign to raise media attention for the situation in Ethiopia
Amnesty International Germany and Amnesty International UK started a public campaign to publicise the dire situation in Ethiopia, including hunger and the war crimes and ethnic cleansing that Amhara forces have been accused of committing in Western Tigray. The Amnesty departments state that media attention has died down, despite the increasingly dire situation. Under the tag #PeaceStormEthiopia, Amnesty International is calling on people to send letters to their representatives and tweet about the situation. Amnesty International published a report on 5 April detailing evidence that Amhara authorities and their allies in Western Tigray have committed systematic and widespread abuse against Tigrayans living in the region. Security forces have expelled hundreds of thousands of people, according to the report. Amnesty also accuses Amhara forces of committing a campaign of sexual violence, using gang rape and sexual slavery of women in Western Tigray. One woman was told: “You Tigrayans should disappear from the land west of [the Tekeze River].” Amnesty International says that these attacks amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes. Amnesty International also says that “Ethiopia’s international and regional partners have failed to reflect the gravity of the crimes that continue to unfold in Western Tigray.”

Horn: increase in child marriage in drought-affected regions
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Executive director Catherine Russell states that the drought in the Horn of Africa is leading to an increase in child marriages. Many families are marrying off their daughters to secure food and other necessities, Russell indicates. UNICEF says that in some areas in Ethiopia, they have observed a 51% increase in child marriages in 2020-2021 compared to the same time period the year before. The Guardian reports that 600.000 children are thought to have dropped out of school. UNICEF is also warning that 10 million children need food in the Horn region. In Ethiopia, hospital intakes for acute malnutrition among children increased 15% between February and March 2022. Many children are forced to drink contaminated water to survive, further leading to an increase in diseases, among them Cholera and measles. UNICEF is calling on funding to provide assistance to children hit by the drought. EEPA published a report summarising the responses and projected impact of the drought in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia: United States welcomes Tigrayan withdrawal from Afar
The Secretary of State of the United States, Antony Blinken, said in a statement on Friday that the US is encouraged by the withdrawal of Tigrayan troops from Afar. The statement continued by urging both sides to “accelerate, uphold, and expand[…]” humanitarian access and is calling on both sides to come to a negotiated ceasefire. 

Ethiopia: Post-Ramadan clash in Addis Ababa
On 2 May, a clash occurred between young muslims and the Addis Ababa police who used tear gas, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP). According to a statement issued by Addis Ababa police, the “riot” caused property damage, but order has been restored. The cause of the clash remains unclear, but AFP journalists reported some demonstrators threw stones at police, shouting “Justice for Gondar” and “Don’t burn our mosques, don’t kill our people”. On 27 April, unidentified armed men killed 20 muslims in clashes in Amhara, Ethiopia. Three men were killed when explosives were thrown into a burial procession, while the others were killed in subsequent clashes.  The president of the Amhara Islamic Affairs Supreme Council said that violence continued as the armed men looted shops and tried to burn mosques.

Ethiopia: War is having a severe environmental impact on Tigray
In an article published in The Conversation, four experts explain how the war in Tigray has had a negative environmental impact on Tigray. According to the authors, before the war, the region was pioneering methods of conservation and “address[ing] persistent food insecurity and low agricultural productivity.” However, since the war started, leading to an occupation and later a humanitarian blockade of the region, there has been a visible decline in vegetation and crops. Satellite imagery shows that entire woods have disappeared and also show a general fall of NDVI ratings, used to measure the greenness of a landscape. The loss of vegetation can negatively affect the quality of the soil, which can lead to worse agricultural productivity. This is problematic in a region that is already suffering from severe malnutrition, warn the authors. 

Ethiopia: OCHA says children and mothers severely malnourished
In its latest situation report, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the humanitarian situation in Northern Ethiopia remains dire. A new humanitarian aid convoy arrived last week, however only 3,400 metric tons of food was brought into Tigray between 1 and 25 April and consequently acute malnutrition remains high. At least 4,675 metric tons of food are required each day. Out of 8,597 children under 5 years screened, 27.8 % suffered from global acute malnutrition, and 3.1% of severe acute malnutrition. Similarly, among 7.335 pregnant women screened, 57.2% were malnourished. OCHA expects the situation to worsen in the coming months if humanitarian assistance is not delivered to Tigray.

Ethiopia: TPLF accuses OCHA of misrepresenting Western Tigrya as Amhara region
In a statement issued by the Tigray External Affairs Office on 30 April, the government of Tigray said it has profoundly disturbed by the decision of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) to incorporate occupied territories in Western Tigray – Wolkayit, Tegedie, and Setit Humera – into Amhara regional State in its latest situation report issued on 29 April 2022. OCHA has since corrected this. The statement accused OCHA of trying to legitimise forcefully occupied territories of Tigray and has acted outside of its main mission of facilitating humanitarian operations and its institutional mandates. The government of Tigray has also urged UNOCHA and other UN entities and organisations to uphold their mandate and condemn the annexation of Western Tigray.

Ethiopia: Ministry of Defense says peacekeepers became victims of propaganda
The Ethiopian Ministry of Defense said in a statement that Ethiopian UN peacekeepers who refused to return home became victims of propaganda by pro-Tigray People’s Liberation Front agents abroad as they were told returning to Ethiopia meant imprisonment. “This has caused a state of confusion amongst these deployed members which in turn caused the desertion of ‘some Tigrinya speakers from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces,” said the statement. It was reported that 528 Ethiopian soldiers from the Tigray region who were working in the UN peacekeeping force in Abyei (UNISFA) have refused to return to Ethiopia expressing fears for their safety and have requested political asylum in Sudan.

Ethiopia: Tigray’s health infrastructure compared to “Swiss Cheese” by health workers
The health system in Tigray has totally collapsed and basic medical assistance cannotbe given, according to health workers interviewed by the New Humanitarian. “This isn’t like the 21st century anymore; it’s more like the 16th or 17th,” said a doctor, said a doctor, while hospitals have to use dirty instruments to work and expired drugs. According to medics interviewed by the New Humanitarian, Eritrean troops have looted and vandalised the health infrastructure in Tigray after the capture of Mekelle, leaving the region without its valuable medical equipment. On 30 April, a third humanitarian convoy containing medical items from the Red Cross reached Tigray, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The ICRC is now working with local authorities on the repair of water facilities in Tigray, in order for the population to gain access to clean water, according to ICRC. “The installation and rehabilitation of hand pumps is extremely important in rural and suburban areas, as access to water infrastructure is limited and people rely on contaminated sources” said Ivano Marati, water and habitat coordinator for the ICRC in Addis Ababa.

Sudan: Protests on third anniversary of the fall of Omar al-Bashir
Sudanese police deployed tear gas and broke up protesters in Khartoum on the third anniversary of the protests that overthrew former Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir in April 2019. Sudan has seen regular protests following the military coup in October 2021, which overthrew the civilian transition government. Talks have continued between the military and the opposition to end military rule, states SudanTribune. The Forces for Freedom Change (FCC), a coalition of opposition groups, said that an end to the coup and military rule remains the goal, and that a solution should “be compatible with the Sudanese people’s aspirations and lead to achieving the demands of the revolution and the pro-democracy protesters after all these huge sacrifices”.

Disclaimer: All information in these highlights is presented as a fluid update report, as to the best knowledge and understanding of the authors at the moment of publication. EEPA does not claim that the information is correct but verifies to the best of ability within the circumstances. Publication is weighed on the basis of interest to understand potential impacts of events (or perceptions of these) on the situation. Check all information against updates and other media. EEPA does not take responsibility for the use of the information or impact thereof. All information reported originates from third parties and the content of all reported and linked information remains the sole responsibility of these third parties. Report to info@eepa.be any additional information and corrections.