Latest update from Ethiopia

Since the last update we have struggled to obtain any information at all about the situation the country, beyond what it is possible to glean from news agencies. However in October we were very glad, though little reassured, to receive a first-hand report from a friend who has been involved through Catholic Relief Services in trying to get food aid into the Tigray region, a task which is clearly both arduous and dangerous. The following is a short summary of what we have learned.

Food distribution is very difficult and much food is spoiled before it can be delivered. Truck drivers will not cross the Tigray border in either direction. Many aid organisations have been thrown out of Ethiopia, including Danish Refugee Organisation, various UN organisations, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Crossing the Tigray border back into Ethiopia is totally and deliberately humiliating, often involving the loss of some or all of one’s possessions. It is very time-consuming. Foreign aid workers cannot be “med-evaced” out in the case of illness and our friend knows of a foreign aid worker who died of a treatable condition for this reason.

It is almost impossible to bring money into Tigray, and banks are not operational. Overseas money is trapped in Addis.

Our friend confirmed our understanding that there are no internal communications between Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia or the rest of the world. This blackout includes telephone, internet and postal services. The use of satellite phones, the only remaining method, is severely restricted, with aid organisations having to continually reapply for permission to use them, and then only for very short time windows. Equipment is frequently broken or sabotaged. In addition, all communications out of Ethiopia are being monitored.

In Adigrat, the seat of Bishop Tesfaselassie, whose diocese covers a huge area bordering Eritrea, there is no water. We were relieved to learn that the Bishop and the clergy were well and operating actively in these extremely difficult circumstances. They are receiving a trickle of money from the Addis diocese which keeps some elements of their programmes afloat. All schools in Tigray are closed.

A fuller account of the current picture in Ethiopia as we understand it is in the annual Newsletter.