Searching for Hope in Ethiopia’s IDP Camps
Fleeing to safety, without a guarantee.
Walking through the internally displaced people camps in Adwa town, Tigray, is a bleak and heart-wrenching experience. All around are people who have fled their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Seeking shelter and safety. Seeking the most basic amenities imaginable. Seeking hope.
In November, armed conflict broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region. The fighting persisted for months, displacing tens of thousands of people and killing hundreds of civilians over the last five months. Reports show that half of the healthcare centers in the region are non-functional and a quarter of schools were damaged. According to the UNHCR, some 61,000 Ethiopians have crossed into neighboring Sudan to flee the violence, settling in camps on the other side of the border.
Another 100,000 are currently displaced in the small town of Adwa. Spread across 10 schools, serving as temporary shelters, they spend their days sitting on the floors of empty classrooms or on the grass outside in the sweltering heat. The lucky ones who have relatives or friends in town leave the shelter in the evening to spend the night with them. Those who are less fortunate must sleep on the hard floors of the school or on the grass outside, leaving them vulnerable to the elements and roaming animals. Pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and the chronically ill all sleep without even the thinnest mat for comfort.
The looks on their faces are those of sadness and despair. Many of them have been separated from family members, and many do not know if their loved ones are still alive. Young children without their parents. Women and men who have lost their spouses and now have to shoulder everything on their own. Elderly people who were taken care of by family members, and now depend on the kindness of strangers.
Every day, people from the camps go out to the community to beg for food and safe drinking water. Many people resort to drinking the contaminated water in nearby rivers, leaving them sick for days. The small community of people originally from Adwa, who also suffered greatly, do their best to support the influx of the displaced. But with little food to eat themselves, they stand no chance in their efforts to provide food to tens of thousands now living in their neighborhoods.
For these people who have fled their homes, some walking for as long as 2 weeks to reach Adwa, the hardship and conditions in the displaced person’s camp are a tough pill to swallow. With no available food, water, or basic items, they realize they did not reach the safe shelter they were seeking. As outsiders enter the camp, displaced people spontaneously line up in the compound hoping for some sort of distribution. The disappointed looks on their faces when the visit ends with no offering, are impossible to miss.
The people of the Adwa camps require urgent help. The situation is dire, and people will not be able to survive amid the shortage of food, water, and basic necessities.
Our team on the ground has begun supporting the displaced population, but resources are limited.
The plight of the people must be heard, and action is needed before it is too late, and lives are lost.
Please support our efforts in responding to this tragic humanitarian crisis.
Liat Rennert is leading humanitarian efforts on the ground for IsraAID, NALA, and CultivAID.