Hundreds of thousands of people were forced from their homes in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia after the fighting began in early November 2020. Some 50,000 people have crossed into Sudan as refugees, while many more are internally displaced, remaining in towns and remote areas or trapped between localized clashes. MSF teams have been providing medical care to some of those affected in Tigray since mid-December.
For areas that MSF teams have been able to access, tens of thousands of displaced people are living in abandoned buildings and on construction sites in western areas around the towns of Shire, Dansha and Humera, while others have found refuge in host communities in the east and south of the Region. These people have very limited access to food, clean water, shelter and health care. MSF teams have also heard reports that many people are still hiding in the mountains and in rural areas of the region.
In some places visited by MSF, power lines are cut, water supplies are not functioning, telecommunications networks are down, banks are closed and many people are afraid to return to their places of origin due to persistent insecurity. Often, they have no way of contacting loved ones or purchasing essential household items. Some people also host family members displaced from elsewhere in the region, which places an additional burden on them. Fighting erupted around harvest time in an area where crops were already badly damaged by locusts, leaving food in short supply. Before the fighting began, nearly a million people were already dependent on humanitarian aid. Although aid agencies and local authorities distribute food in some areas, it does not reach everyone.
In southern Tigray, MSF teams are running mobile clinics and have restarted some services in health centers in the towns of Hiwane and Adi Keyih, alongside staff from the Ministry of Health. Between December 18 and January 3, MSF teams in Hiwane and Adi Keyih provided 1,498 medical consultations.
In eastern Tigray, MSF is supporting the hospital in Adigrat, the region’s second largest city. When an MSF team arrived in the city on December 19, they found that the hospital, which serves a population of over one million, had partially stopped functioning. Given the urgency of the situation, MSF sent oxygen bottles and food for patients and their caregivers from Mekele, 120 kilometers away. [about 74 miles] further south, and referred patients to the Avder hospital in the region’s capital. Since December 23, MSF’s medical teams have been managing hospital emergencies, as well as medical, surgical, pediatric and maternity services. They also provide outpatient care for children under five. MSF received 760 patients in the emergency room of Adigrat hospital from December 24 to January 10.
In central Tigray, as far north as the towns of Adwa, Axum and Shire, MSF teams are providing some of the displaced people with basic health care and supporting health facilities that lack essential supplies such as medicine, oxygen and food for patients. MSF teams estimate that between three and four million people in central Tigray do not have access to basic health care.
In the towns of Mai Kadra and Humera in the north-west, MSF has provided support to some health centers and has supported up to 2,000 displaced people by providing medical services, water, food and drink. sanitation and hygiene and building emergency latrines. Most of the internally displaced are no longer there.
Before the conflict, Tigray’s population was around 5.5 million, including more than 100,000 internally displaced people and 96,000 refugees who were already dependent on food aid, according to the United Nations. . In addition to its activities in Tigray, MSF teams have provided health care to thousands of displaced people on the border in the Amhara region since November. They have also provided medical supplies to several health facilities and provided nutritional and mass training to ministry of health staff. MSF is also responding to the needs of Ethiopian refugees across the Sudanese border.