Tigray crisis: Children must be protected from harm, urges UNICEF

19 March 2021

The situation for children in Tigray is becoming increasingly serious as the conflict in the northern Ethiopian region continues to escalate, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

In a statement UNICEF said it was ‘deeply concerned’ that in the five months since fighting began between forces loyal to regional power brokers the TPLF, and national Government troops, children’s access to basic social services is being eroded. 

“Schools and health centres have been looted, vandalised and occupied by armed forces and groups”, Executive Director Henrietta Fore said.

Attacks on health centres

“Organisations on the ground have reported deliberate attacks on health facilities and warned that the limited health services that are functional are unable to cope with the needs.”

An assessment carried out at the end of February, found that violence and looting have left nearly 60 per cent of health care facilities unable to operate. Boreholes in 13 towns were surveyed with over half unable to function. A quarter of the region’s schools also sustained damage from the conflict.

Since November UNICEF said a clearer picture has emerged of killings and sexual violence against women and children in Tigray. 

“The reported murder of at least 20 children at Maryam Dengelat Church last November will continue to haunt families and communities”, said Fore.

Ramping up support

UNICEF is working to ensure that critical supplies reach the country and that people can safely access essential services. More staff are also being brought to the region, but UNICEF has warned that “humanitarian aid alone is not enough.

“Monitoring, reporting and protection services for those affected must be urgently expanded to meet the growing needs of survivors.”

The agency is also calling for parties involved in the conflict to ensure that children are protected and that basic services, such as health centres and schools - and the safety and security of everyone working in and accessing those services - are also guaranteed safety.

 

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