Rebuilding schools and hospitals have been set as a “top priority” in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia after two years of brutal conflict.
According to the American charity Save the Children, the situation is still grim four months after the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace agreement.
Janti Soeripto, President and CEO of Save the Children US, said so after a trip to the region that remained largely cut off from the world during fighting that was marred by numerous atrocities that spilled over into neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara.
“In Mekele you see a return to normal: there are restaurants, there are shops, there is a market, there are shops, shops are open and I’m sure the supplies are not fully covered, but in cities you definitely see these resume what is good. But as I said, if 80 to 90% of the health infrastructure and schools are damaged or completely destroyed, then that’s a problem……”
The brutal civil war in northern Ethiopia has claimed the lives of up to 600,000 people, making it one of the deadliest conflicts in recent memory.
Between June and October 2022 alone, nearly 200 children under the age of five died of starvation in 14 hospitals in the Tigray region, according to local doctors and researchers.
“If you don’t have education, it’s very hard to sustain a peace process, we must get kids back into school as soon as possible to restart that and to make sure they overcome the gap, right? They haven’t been in their schools for three years in Tigray. So even that, overcoming that gap, making sure people accelerate their learning or get back to the level where they should have been, that in of itself is a massive undertaking. And I think basic healthcare, education for children and reconciliation process there and with everybody included is critical to maintain the peace.”
There were many other casualties in the conflict, including millions of displaced people. In the face of efforts to rebuild and overcome the recent and ugly past, Soeripto stresses the need to focus on education and health.
Fighting erupted in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia in November 2020 after Addisse accused Tigray fighters of attacking the federal army.
Fighting has spread to the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar after President Abiy Ahmed sent troops to the region.