Rebuilding schools and hospitals is the “number one priority” in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region after two years of brutal conflict.
According to US-based charity Save the Children, four months since the federal government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) signed a peace deal, the situation remains dire. Janti Soeripto, President & Chief Executive Officer of Save the Children US, said this after a trip to the region, which remained largely cut off from the world during the fighting marked by numerous atrocities that spilled over into neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions.
“In Mekelle, you see a resumption of normal life: there are restaurants, there is business, there is a market, there are commercial activities, shops are open, I’m sure supplies are not completely fulfilled, but in the cities, you certainly see that resumption, which is good, but as I said, if 80 to 90% of the healthcare infrastructure and schools are damaged or completely destroyed, that is problematic. ……”
The brutal civil war in northern Ethiopia may have killed as many as 600,000 people, making it one of the world’s deadliest conflicts of recent times. Between June and October 2022 alone, almost 200 children under the age of five died of starvation in 14 hospitals across the Tigray region, according to data collected by local doctors and researchers. There were several more casualities of the conflict including milliions of displaced people. As efforts to rebuild and move on from the ugly recent past emerge, Soeripto reiterates that education and healthcare must be the focus.
“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.”
Fighting broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in November 2020 after Addis accused Tigrayan fighters of attacking the federal army. With President Abiy Ahmed deploying troops to the region, fighting spread across the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions.