Hospitals swamped with malnutrition, disease in Ethiopian conflict zone as World Vision humanitarian response

Hospitals are so overwhelmed with severe malnutrition and disease in Ethiopia’s conflict-affected Tigray region they are running out of medical supplies, World Vision has warned, as it launches a humanitarian response to the crisis.

The aid agency has launched an international appeal for $AU13.2 million in funds to meet the desperate need after conflict in the region left hundreds of thousands of children displaced.

The devastating crisis is just the latest in a string of disastrous events for the country including the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing desert locust and army worm plagues, erratic rainfall resulting in flooding and drought. These have been compounded by the displacement of over three million people due to ethnic violence in recent years.

World Vision has been among the first agencies to respond to the latest emergency with assessments and assistance, including delivering medical supplies to Alamata Hospital – an infirmary that has become swamped by patients suffering severe malnutrition, malaria and water-borne diseases.

World Vision staff on the ground say the hospital has run out of medical supplies, is understaffed, and has had no ability to pay salaries or provide for their medical personnel – many of whom fled north to the region’s capital, Mekelle.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation,” said World Vision Ethiopia’s National Director Edward Brown.

“Not only are thousands of children severely impacted by this crisis without electricity, water, and food for over a month, but our own staff and families are in the same boat.”

World Vision has also sent food, medical supplies and care packages to its own staff suffering due to the conflict.

World Vision has committed about AU$2 million to provide emergency shelter, health, WASH and protection supplies, but more funds are urgently needed.

World Vision Australia acting CEO Graham Strong says the reality is dire for hundreds of thousands of people in the hard-hit region, with scores of families forced to search for safety and living in temporary shelter and camps.

Many Australians support World Vision sponsor children in the region, and he called on their generosity to extend further – by donating to the appeal.

“Hunger is threatening the lives of vulnerable children and families in an area that is already relatively poor,” he says.

“An outbreak of locusts has already destroyed the crops they rely on and now, a deadly conflict is raging. The unfolding situation in Tigray has been described by the UN as a ‘full scale humanitarian crisis’, and World Vision is deeply concerned for the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable populations, especially children. We are asking for the support of Australians at this difficult and challenging time, as we accompany the children of Ethiopia during the crisis.”

According to UNOCHA’s report on December 7, 2020, nearly 50,000 refugees have fled to Sudan in the wake of the intense military conflict, destruction of infrastructure, and internal dislocation of potentially hundreds of thousands of civilians.

“Thank God, Ethiopia has done remarkably well this year in mitigating the spread of the COVID19 and overcoming other daunting challenges, but the Tigray crisis poses the biggest threat of all,” says Mr Brown.

“This year has presented one crisis after another. The purpose of our response is to prevent further destruction and death, and to contribute towards a sustainable and just peace.”

The Government of Ethiopia (GoE) and the United Nations signed an agreement on November 28 that included unimpeded, sustained and secure access for humanitarian personnel and services to vulnerable populations in GoE-administered areas of Tigray. However, implementation of the agreement has yet to be fully realised due to insecurity and other challenges.

UNICEF estimates that 2.3 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ethiopia.

To donate to the appeal, go to https://www.worldvision.com.au/global-issues/worldemergencies/tigray-crisis-appeal-ethiopia.

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