Massive military offensive in northern Afar Region displacing over 200,000 people
– January 27th 2022 – based on visit to affected districts January 25th and 26th 2022
Having more or less been pushed out of central Afar Region as of December 3rd, TPLF began what is now an extremely wide and devastating offensive in northern Afar Region.
As of December 17th, TPLF had taken the border junction town of Aba’ala that leads from Afar into Tigray Region, around 35 kilometers south of Mekele. This they accomplished through firing long-range guns into the town from the border hills, damaging the hospital, mosque, police station and once there, looting all shops and property. Then 56,000 people fled; around 27,000 toward Erebti on the asphalt going to the salt-lake town of Afdeera while the remainder fled toward Barhale. By mid-January, fighting began in Magaale adjoining southern Aba’ala and then broke out in Barhale on Aba’ala’s northern border, finally by December 22nd breaking out in Erebti, Konnaba and as of today, Dallol now engulfing a total of 6 Regional districts.
The interest of the TPLF appears again to control road access: from Aba’ala through Erebti and then Afdeera runs an asphalt road built to take the salt from Lake Afdeera to the main highway cutting through Afar Region from Djibouti. TPLF leadership have before declared they will take to the road junction at Sardo that their supplies run freely from Djibouti to Tigray. Their other ambition is the mineral wealth of northern Afar: salt, high-grade potash and gold.
This military adventure has so far displaced an estimated 220,000 people (government figure as of 27/01/22) fleeing rocket rained on them in towns, tank warfare and being abducted. The Erebti health center was hit and burnt on January 25th and currently, TPLF is firing at the Alert German hospital in Feris Dugi, Konnaba. Massive vehicle destruction has occurred Bureau of Health loosing 4 mobile health team cars that were treating displaced in Aba’ala, APDA has lost two trucks that had just delivered food to Magaale among many other vehicles, there not being a clear outcome as of yet.
While actual casualties are not known as yet, the fight on Tuesday in Erebti resulted in over 100 Afar civilians unaccounted for. As one woman described, they fled with the sounds of the first guns from Erebti town (she had spent 5 weeks there displaced from ‘Aba’ala), the first to flee got out but as they looked back, women and children were being stopped by the TPLF. She then had to walk 70 – odd kilometers with her children to reach a government – established camp at Guddi Koma taking her almost 48 hours. People have fled in all directions: from Magaale where the communities are literally trapped from any assistance coming in, people are crossing the jagged hills of Gimridda coming down into Erebti, a foot – journey of 4 to 5 days. APDA now believes one of its missing drivers has made that journey arriving today in Erebti, the other driver and a logistician still missing. People have fled as far as Afdeera all along tiny camel tracks carrying their children without food.
APDA’s main dilemma then is to reach these people with food and assist as possible. Without trucks, APDA is in a quandary: no commercial trucks are prepared to risk it and go into the area, even water trucks. The government has set up a rudimentary displacement camp in Guddi Koma on the road to Afdeera but currently and probably from fear, people are not gravitating that way. Water in the area is scarce and can be brought by truck from Saraba 45 kilometers away, food needs to come from Samara some 314 kilometers away. Government and APDA health workers are combining to go out and serve the communities.