Ethiopia conflict taking a toll on women, girls

Internally displaced women who are sheltered in a makeshift camp in the village of Erebti in Ethiopia on June 9, 2022. 

Photo credit: Photo | AFP

What you need to know:

  • Of the 26 million people affected by the ongoing conflict in the Tigray and Amhara regions, nearly three quarters are women and girls.
  • About four million people in Tigray and an estimated 10 million in the Amhara region need life-saving health services, including sexual and reproductive support.

Women and girls who form the bulk of the people affected and displaced by conflicts in Ethiopia need urgent humanitarian assistance.

Of the 26 million people affected by the ongoing conflict in the Tigray and Amhara regions, nearly three quarters are women and girls.

The UN humanitarian Coordination Office report says the conflict has fuelled sexual violence with women and girls as the greatest casualties.

The report indicates that there is no initiative in place to protect them from gender-based violence. Rape survivors have little or no access to clinical management or other core services.

It further shows that the crime of sexual violence is hugely under-reported as the conflicts rage.

“Few survivors ever speak of their ordeal, for fear of being stigmatized by their families and communities and in the stinging awareness that justice will anyway likely elude them,” the report reads.

About four million people in Tigray and an estimated 10 million in the Amhara region need life-saving health services, including sexual and reproductive support.

Among those internally displaced, more than half are women and girls of reproductive age, and their needs for health and hygiene products, and protection from gender-based violence are high.

Months of conflict have caused a shortage of hygiene supplies, with widespread health consequences.

Across northern Ethiopia, UNFPA is supporting 11 friendly spaces, which have assisted more than 15,000 women and girls so far this year, and 20 one-stop centres.

In the Tigray and Amhara regions, the UN agency works with three shelters to help survivors recover through intensive counselling and support.

Last March, the UN Human Rights Council appointed two African leaders to probe human rights violations in the Tigray conflict.

Betty Murungi a Kenyan lawyer and Fatou Bensouda the former Chief Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC) will work alongside law Prof Steven Ratner in the probe.

The team will be part of the newly-created International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia tasked with establishing "the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged violations and abuses.

Pressure has been mounting on the international community to act on atrocities that continue to be perpetuated on women and girls as the conflict rages.

In May last year, more than 60 rights organizations in Africa called for an inquiry into the allegations of violations of women and girls' rights, including sexual violence in the Tigray region.

The Solidarity for African Women’s Rights (SOAWR), a coalition working on women’s rights in 32 African countries said cases of sexual violence against women and girls in the conflict-hit Tigray region had reached alarming levels and needed immediate action.

SOAWR indicated they also want the inquiry to extend to violations and atrocities committed by all parties, including Eritrean forces in Tigray.

Ethiopia's war broke out in November 2020, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).






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