“Many children died on the way,” says *Hanan – an Ethiopian university student – of their nightmarish flight from violence.
In the Afar region of Ethiopia, families fleeing war have told of their terrifying journey on foot through the mountains, with children dying on the way from lack of food and water. They have escaped the violence, only to arrive in drought-stricken camps where there is not enough aid to meet the growing needs.
More than 2.6 million people have fled their homes in northern Ethiopia, due to the war that started in Tigray in 2020. Hanan, 22, arrived in one of the camps for displaced people in April. She told us how she and her brother escaped heavy fighting around their hometown in northern Afar:
“Mothers and children were separated as we fled in fear. Later they managed to find each other in the mountains. We were in the mountains for over two months. We saw a lot of suffering in those mountains. All we had were our animals, so we ate them to survive. My mother and father were taken away by armed men. We do not know where they took them or why.
“We walked for eight days and eight nights with no food. Many young children died on the way due to the heat and lack of water. We did not have a place to sleep, so we came here (to the camp).”
Unfortunately, Hanan’s troubles are not over.
According to Fekadu Mandefro, communications coordinator for Islamic Relief in Ethiopia, “The camp is crammed full of people struggling to survive, with little or no food or access to clean water and toilets. Many people are living in the open air or in flimsy shelters, exposed to the harsh elements. They have fled for their lives and now they’re living in horrendous circumstances, traumatised by the violence and hunger they experienced.”
Islamic Relief has provided food supplies including wheat flour, lentils and oil to more than 43,000 people like Hanan who have fled the conflict in Afar, as well as clean water, shelter and other vital aid. However, much more is needed.
Hanan say, “One year ago I was studying and about to graduate from university. Now I pray for help to get us out of this miserable situation.”