Address: P.O. Box 592, Code 1,110, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Office location: Samara, Afar Region – Liaison Office, near Global Hotel, Addis Ababa
Liaison Officer – 251 911170092/ 251 911246639
Facebook address: Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA)
YouTube: Afar APDA
Phone numbers: 251 912840017 – Executive Director; 251 911642575 – Program Coordinator;
251 912667437 – Administrator
1.TPLF offensive now in 5 districts of northern Afar – new displacement of over 200,000 people
While we all wish this sort of discussion to be past tense, again, the communities are utterly engulfed. Starting with Aba’ala, the closest junction to Tigray and Mekele on December 17th, the TPLF offensive in northern Afar Region has progressively engulfed district after district now being fought in 5 districts: Aba’ala, Magaale to the south of it, Barahale adjoining in the north, Konnaba and Erebti on the road to the Afdeera salt lake with an ambition, it appears of taking control of the road linking The Djibouti to Addis highway with the road through the salt lake into Tigray. Meanwhile, with fighting on more than 8 fronts, Magaale has no entry point, people are streaming over the rugged Gimridda mountain into Erebti plain area looking for food, a 4 – day walk with children and the like. Displaced from Konnaba are going out through Balbal into Barahale to harbor in Dallol. This morning, we are told of 3 mothers who gave birth part way.
Others have gone into Afdeera to Harsuuma from Erebti while still more are trying to reach Teeru through Magaale. By all estimations, at least 200,000 people are on the move in displacement. TPLF is firing long-range rockets into the towns and the fear now is the hospital of the German organization Target will be damaged in Feris Dagi of Konnaba. Water reservoirs in Feris Dagi and Alheena of Konnaba are blown apart by artillery. The clinic in Erebti town was burnt on Tuesday, the TPLF army firing in with 6 tanks and long-range artillery. A woman fleeing for the second time having fled ‘Aba’ala town in mid December told APDA that she and her children did make it out spending 2 nights on the road to safety in Erebti but as she looked back to Erebti town, she saw other women and children being stopped by TPLF – from that fighting there are over 100 civilians unaccounted for. The challenge is that people are not easily accessible walking along camel tracks through rugged hills and very highly dispersed all fearing the strikes of artillery and that TPLF has infiltrated various places endangering civilians. There is an unaccounted report of a terrible massacre of ‘Aba’ala people displaced from the December fighting at the road junction to Magaale – there too TPLF abducted a water truck APDA had hired delivering water to the people. The truck owner reported women, children and others killed and houses burnt.
Government map of Afar Region showing Tigray/ Afar conflict – affected areas in blue – actually Barhale in the north should be shaded. The affected areas also coincide with where the most severe malnutrition is. Again the south east of the Region is engulfed in the affects of the Issa/ Afar conflict also causing malnutrition.
- The toll on APDA and others trying to assist
In the last 2 weeks, scores of vehicles have been captured and burnt among them 2 trucks APDA owned that had just completed delivering food to displaced and malnourished people in Magaale. While APDA believes the drivers and the logistician may have escaped, as of writing 2 APDA staff are missing, one found. A fourth who had been working to support women in income generation in the district died in fighting. Again, 4 vehicles of the Bureau of Health mobile health team that were serving the displaced people were burnt in Aba’ala. Food stored in Erebti is looted. The list goes on.
- The frontline response
As is possible, APDA is working with the Regional Government as far as possible in the north: initial food (dates and ground barley that does not require cooking) went out on January 25th – some of that food is on its way to Afdeera by camel to reach displaced people. A second amount left 27th, again as ‘rescue’ food for desperate displaced people. APDA today posted a health team in Erebti to walk to areas of displacement and support in the roadside displacement camp that the government is trying to persuade people to stay in, Guddi Koma in Erebti. The government is struggling to truck water and APDA will move blankets and water jerricans with soap today. Dubte hospital has over 50 wounded, the most serious having been referred to Addis Ababa. APDA’s maternity hospital in Mille is again on stand-by to take cases when Dubte has no space. The immediate plan is to try to reach people as is possible – the best is Afar Daagu, the traditional system of sending information – from this, APDA is daily getting information of where people have reached. The real challenge now is trucks: with the 2 APDA trucks gone, the Afar security has found one truck for the organization to use but this really does tie the organization hands. The trucks lost are an FSR truck capable of carrying 80 quintal and the winch truck that carried over 100 quintal – these trucks in the first place were second- hand to APDA but so useful since the organization is working in all directions even to continue to relieve the needs of those who displaced and suffered under fighting from October to early December delivering to them shelter mats to rebuild destroyed and burnt houses, driver malnutrition food support, work with their WASH needs and so on. IF there is any possibility of assistance, around 100,000 USD can get APDA a truck – if there was one unused overseas, it is so needed here.
- Support going out to displaced in central Afar
APDA continues to support the conflict – affected of Sifra, ‘Adda’ar, Uwwa, Awra who lost houses, had their animals slaughtered, live in fear of land-mines and the unburied bodies of dead TPLF soldiers that litter the ground till now from fighting that ended on December 3rd as well as the food insecurity. Traditional mats have gone out now supporting a total of 862 houses to date: 630 in Uwwa and 232 in ‘Adda’ar. As well 1,250 households have received shelter material including blankets in Uwwa. Once trucks can be found, there are mats to construct a further 862 houses ready to go out. One-month food has recently been distributed to 1,600 households in Uwwa with another 800 households to receive. With shelter, there are around another 3,000 households that need traditional mats including those in Magaale where 1,080 houses were burnt in November – these people of course are now fleeing again.
APDA health teams are working continually in all affected districts to counteract the malnutrition that has set in due to the food insecurity – a factor of the markets of the western border now not operating. APDA has begun a project to stand up Yallo market and has asked assistance for Sifra market – the 2 major markets that link the communities to sell their goats and buy food. Other than this, APDA is supporting local cooperatives that they sell food at reasonable price (there is massive inflation on the cost of basic food items) that pastoralists can again feed their family. Yesterday’s report from the government emergency desk speaks of 85% of Afar people currently relief food dependent. This is so shocking: unless local markets are activated, Afar will simply slip into full-scale food insecurity loosing their livelihood entirely.
Emergency education continues with a plan to start informal, awareness – education in ‘Adda’ar that communities can cope/ adapt to the pains they have over the enormous losses they endured in November/ December. More needs to be done and APDA needs to write extensively on how households and communities can cope with such wholesale tragedy.
- More cheering news
Solar pumps are being put in place in Waynabissi, the northern Dubte Geega grazing valley enabling these people to drink historically the first potable water. This is enough water also for horticultural vegetable growing turning round mono-pastoralists into agro-pastoralists with diversified food and a safe buffer against droughts and herd loss – this is also planned in a second site of their community, the grazing valley being 150 kilometers long. 36 kilometers of river diversion in Awra has been successful also protecting this community from the ravages of drought. Crop growing in Garani, eastern Afar Region is introducing a wide range of vegetables to the community and market selling will begin soon.
The winter rains fell on the western border but the hinterland and north remain dry. Animal diseases are causing problem in some of the drier areas.
- Where to go
With the contributions to assist displaced people, APDA has written an explanatory budget that will act as a baseline to change according to daily need and the access the assist. The fund is now in action and APDA should be able to get the stated assistance to people within 10 days.
Three families from ‘Aba’ala having been displaced twice. Photographed 26th January in schoolroom of Guddi Koma, Erebti. They had arrived after 2 nights on the road from Erebti town (70 kilometers).