Again fighting, again displacement in Northern Afar


Again fighting, again displacement in Northern Afar
October 11th 2022

⦁ Fighting that had resumed around September 20th and stopped presumably on the pretext of the newly planned peace negotiations in South Africa on October 1st started with veracity on October 10th. From Assa Daa to the plain fields of Saahi Gubi in Barhale there is heavy rocket exchange.

Town people running from cement structures to trees for shelter
In round numbers, 34,920 people are displaced strewn in encampments along the valley of the Barayra/ Dartakna River that goes toward where some of them were displaced in Daboore, Afdeera from January to early May 2022. Around 200 households had displaced from Buure kebele where soldiers have recently confiscated goats; 3,420 households are from the sprawling town of Saahi Gubi and its surrounds, another 2,200 households estimated from adjoining Assa Gubi and 1,200 households from Leele ‘Alala – all 4 kebeles being in Barhale district and all adjoining. Further on from Add’Kaalo; Gubbe and Wassamma, women and children have been sent into displacement for protection, all kebeles of Aba’ala close to the now conflict – affected area.
They have been under trees drinking the river water as they said 13 days. Gunfire of war had stopped but during our visit, October 10th there was again strong exchange of long-range fire. Most of the displaced are either semi-urban people or actually urban people living in permanent towns and villages having lived in cement houses or at least permanently – constructed rock houses with tin roofs.
Huddled as they could under trees, people have with them what they were able to bring in terms of cooking material, food, money, bedding and so on. However, for around 800 households from Saahi Gubi, they are now utterly empty – handed having fled as the guns were firing at them in the town.
What they related was when they left their villages, TPLF came in and literally looted the remains of what they had left like locusts – not cup did they leave. What was striking again was almost NO goats – all people APDA talked to said the TPLF had driven their goats off or burnt them in earlier fighting and they have almost none – they also talked of rounding up and killing cattle and camels. Too their camels had been loaded with looted goods and taken into Tigray. With Afar, animals are essential to life: even an urban/ semi-urban person will keep a handful of goats to get milk and occasional meat.

From town – living to camping under a tree

Their first need they said was a plastic sheet to protect from the rain. Rain in western Afar is persisting an almost forgotten season in the regional calendar called Dababa is falling in places this year. Blankets and clothes wet from the previous night’s rain were visible. Being that many of them had small shops living on the petty trade of their town and the roadway going into Barhale town, they had already set up ‘shop’ under a tree and were selling what they could from coffee/ tea to any small goods. An Izuzu came in loaded with goods to sell to the displaced. These are people who were doing well/ just picked themselves up from a previous conflict displacement to again being thrown under a tree.

Blankets and clothes drying from the previous night’s rain. October 10th 2022


Water is the running river and health care is happening through a health center around 1 hour’s walk away. Of course there is no school and immediate maternal health care is highly unlikely as there are no ambulances yet people, being semi-urban are adapted to clinic care.

Concerns and how to help
Concerns are many expressed in fear and uncertainty of how long they must endure this. There were no actual reports of civilian casualties but there are those who carry the memory of infliction earlier in the year. The apparent duplicity of the TPLF in withdrawing and coming back makes life utterly insecure. There had been an attempt for Tigray forces to break through close to Aba’ala town on October 9th that was defeated.
They are eating what they have but this they said will only last another week to 10 days. Water is apparently relatively clean but totally overhead shelter is needed. Upwards of 7 families are sharing one flimsy plastic sheet when it rains.
Children again are doomed to miss education ahs they did in the 2nd semester of the previous school year. Them, the youth and the adults need some form of informal learning that brings positive thinking to them.

Again, they will start up – previously, the north has not had assistance in conflict recovery – the people being of a stronger market sense and resilience than those in central Afar where conflict also destroyed livelihoods were showing signs of putting themselves together. This is a second load of punishment for them. Food coming up from central Afar is at extremely inflated cost and limited. There are some work – before Aba’ala town, there was a group who have an orange grove selling the fruit for around 100 ETB per kilogram. Afar need to be supported to carry on their traditions of working together and assisting each other if possible and in keeping the market with minimal inflation. From central Afar, there is a considerable contraband trade still going into Tigray – Tigray donkeys coming to get it.

Another high consideration must be those literally cut off by this conflict – the main road into Konnaba is impassable due to conflict now – there is a back road that is very traitorous to vehicles. Northern Dallol beyond Adow Kwa’, the administration town is utterly cut off since among those 9 kebeles there are no passable roads and vehicles into Dallol.

From the shop in Saahi Gubi to the river valley – trying to survive

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