AFAR PASTORALIST DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATION
QAFAR DACARSITTOH DADALIH EGLA
Casualty, displacement and livelihood loss continue unchecked in northern Afar
February 20th 2022
- An ongoing military struggle and huge toll in casualties and losses
Despite all, the ½ million Afar people living in the Region’s 8 northern districts live in daily fear of TPLF’s advancing cruelty facing heavy weapon attacks to resist and protect their people and land. Of them, over 300,000 are now displaced, displacement increasing daily mainly into eastern Erebti, Afdeera and north as far as Dallol while the people of Magaale are harboring in Yallo directly south of the district in turmoil. This all started with the TPLF firing rockets into Afar Region as of December 17th and has progressively engulfed more and more areas. The Afar militia and Special Forces have held the massive army described as ‘locusts’ by one combatant off to a stalemate incurring a huge toll of casualties, particularly in Barhale, Magaale and Konnaba.
All health facilities are now rendered nonfunctional, the Target Hospital, German equipped and supported maternity hospital in Konnaba was dismantled in late January. Schools are ransacked, water schemes pulled apart and markets non-existent.
Regional Government emergency has tried to organize displacement in camps but in fact, people have displaced up to 4 times and are very wary of conflict advancement fearing roadways. Town displaced from Aba’ala and Erebti have inched closer to the regional administration camping in Afdeera town high school so that the government has now established an official camp in an unused compound Guyah, a small town on the road to the Afdeera salt lake, the road that eventually goes on through Aba’ala into Tigray. Numbers there are expected to reach 5,000 households with almost 2,000 already congregating. This site is readily accessible 105 kilometers from Samara having already been assisted with food, blankets, water – containers. There are no latrines and organized hygiene and sanitation is essential.
The urgency continues however for those partially reached and those still to be assisted are between Konnaba and Barhale and in Yallo having come south from Magaale. These people are in rural settings, the local Afar hosting them. For these Afar, this virtually means slaughtering their goats to feed the displaced as with the entire north, markets are now non-existent and any food reaching from the south through Samara and Logya is sold at highly inflated costs. All therefore in the northern Afar are under extreme food insecurity, no markets for their animals and malnutrition assuming an upper hand in the most remote places.
Displacement into Afdeera:
While numbers are not yet clear, Afdeera’s 9 sub-districts are filling up with displaced people who are primarily depending on local community support. Fearing the extension of fighting in Erebti, Erebti town displaced, Aba’ala and 50 – odd households from Magaale have entered Harsuuma through Garbeena in Erebti reaching proportions of almost 500 households. Daboore in northern Afdeera is filling with Barhale’s displaced while others are in the 5 sub-districts of Afdeera’s river plain. While undertaking nutrition screening in this highly malnourished area, APDA’s health team located these people. The team found that still more from Barhale have come across to near the sulphur lakes in Hamad ‘Eela just north of Afdeera. There again upwards of 2,000 households are living under trees searching water since there is only one potable supply in the area. By and large, small trucks can reach these areas with some camel transport needed but they are without shelter and medical care.
Over 60,000 people have fled from the villages and towns of Konnaba to live in open air on the district’s border with adjoining district of Dallol. The Regional government did construct a diverting road to get supplies to them, the people having endured almost 20 days without any food. A few small trucks have successfully reached them with food but it is nowhere near the capacity they require. Fighting in and around Barhale town over the past 3 weeks has been the obstacle and still threatens this route. These people till now have no health support, several women having reported delivering babies in the open and actual casualties not clear. APDA is anxious to establish a health team to work among them in the next days.
Yallo receiving most of the Magaale displacement:
While some of Magaale’s displaced trekked out through Limmo to adjoining Teeru, these people were brought down to join others from Magaale in Yallo. Dirma in Yallo now hosts around 5,000 households while a further 3,000 households are in rural areas around Raru where about 1,000 displaced families desperately need water, Sekti Gollo and Der Dorra, all very remote rural settlements where the displaced are being hosted by local herdsmen.
- A) the suffering saga of Magaale
As of yesterday, APDA’s leading Magaale coordinator arrived in Logya/ Samara having been forced into displacement. His recital of the Magaale debacle is as follows:
Magaale, the small highly mountainous district adjoining Aba’ala was the second of the 5 affected districts to be attacked as of early January being highly strategic as the previous Afar Regional President whose home country is Magaale had joined the TPLF some 12 months prior, he actually having grown with the TPLF and being appointed Afar’s President some 10 years ago. Our coordinator managed to endure almost 7 weeks of the fighting, he says hardly seeing his home and family and going to every battlefield to assist the injured, bury the dead, bring food to trapped people and steer them to safety and generally support the cause of defense. He actually saw the TPLF drive away with the 2 APDA missing trucks and believes APDA’s missing driver is under force still driving between Magaale and Aba’ala for the TPLF. While he does not have exacting numbers of injured, there were over 60 civilians die, both in cross-fire as well as the actually massacre of local people. Most recently 22 people died now 6 days ago shot dead in Magaale’s administration town. Two children were among these and a further two died treading on a landmine.
Seven days ago, as fighting reached his home, he ran to rescue his wife and 5 children, literally grabbing them and running till they reached the hills of Limmo where he set them up – he then ran down into Yallo to find some food for them to survive and has come out to work with displaced in Yallo. He says all his small goats are lost and probably half of the main herd leaving him with around 10 for the family. Again, he said he had worked to reserve food that could be sold at reasonable price to the community storing it in the administration town – that, he says has been raided along with anything left of stored food reserves by the TPLF as of 15 days ago.
His description of the displacement is sobering: he says till now just 6,000 kilograms unground wheat, 165 cartons of oil reached Dirma where most of the displaced are. His says this is close to useless as there is no grinding mill, no cooking pots and people are desperately hungry. Shelter against the night cold and the winds is utterly needed, he says, people having only the warmth of their own bodies to protect children.
The plan now is that he goes back with a truck of readily edible food, blankets, soap, jerricans (if they can be found on time), more medicines for the newly – established APDA health team there to collect the 5 community teachers he was leading, the 6 women extension workers and establish emergency teaching for the displaced getting them to focus on solution and the future rather than the miseries of the conflict.
- B) Our truck (yours and ours) has reached Erebti
The truck as acquired from the government ready to leave in APDA’s Samara compound, 18/02/2022.
As of this morning’s conversation with the logistic officer and health team leader, this truck reached into Erebti yesterday. Community camels were arranged and waiting, the emergency supplies immediately loaded and sent out to 9 peripheral rural sites where the displaced from Erebti, Magaale and Aba’ala are sheltering. Distribution was challenging, the logistic officer reported as the amount sent meant only 1 to 2 kilograms of wheat flour could be given per identified extremely needy person. Each and every item was immediately needed and valued. Sent out was 15,500 kilograms of white flour; 1,560 kilograms of dates; 500 of ground barley; 200 kilograms of sugar; 1,500 blankets; 1,500 sleeping mats and 100 cooking pots; 8,600 pieces of soap. Clothes coming from USA were also sent.
- The next immediate plan to turn tragedy around:
- As of this week, APDA must bolster its health teams: around 20 health workers are needed in Yallo area; 15 in to cover the displacement areas in Afdeera; 20 health workers to continue in Erebti and a further team needs to be formed to support displaced people between Barhale and Konnaba – the urgency here is hygiene and sanitation where people are grouped together without latrines especially; overall disease prevention awareness and immediate treatment for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea as reported from all sites. Nutrition screening must also be part of it as most displaced people are coming from places of known high malnutrition anyway such as Magaale, Erebti and parts of Barhale.
- While Bureau of Health is supporting in emergency medications as well as malnutrition treatment supplies, Bureau of Water/ UNICEF in soap and hopefully jerricans, more immediately edible food needs to be purchased along with wheat flour.
- Cooking pots, blankets and sleeping mats need to go out to all districts receiving displaced people. Even Afar traditional mates are needed that people are able to prop up some form of shelter using the mats again to re-build their houses when they are able to return home since the TPLF has systematically burnt/ destroyed the traditional home of the Afar (daboyta). Indeed, if APDA can acquire the trucks from the government, a minimum of 2 trucks as above needs to go this week: to Yallo and into unassisted areas of Afdeera. A third is needed into the Konnaba/ Barhale area.
- Since WFP can only supply unground wheat, grinding mills need to be purchased for Yallo and Guyah urgently.
- Where possible, informal learning must resume that the stress and pain of the war is relieved to some extent. For this, exercise books are needed.
- Stepping into recovery:
So much of the Afar livelihood has been ravaged: herds eaten by armies or burnt; thousands of Afar houses destroyed (in Sifra alone, an assessment found 3,647 families still without any form of shelter, fighting having ended there in early December); household property looted when the house was destroyed; shops looted dry of any form of commodity in towns. In Sifra market town known by the locals as ‘little Saudia’ since it has alleyways of shops is actually utterly empty, the TPLF apparently driving trucks into the town to pick up the loot: food, electronics, clothes, shoes, bags, cosmetics and the like. Now a few sellers sit on the ground outside the once bustling shops selling a few food commodities out of sacks, the vast number of merchants unable to return as they are robbed of their capital.
APDA has begun a project to restore Yallo market putting 3 cooperatives in place to bring reasonably – priced food into this once booming market and buy up goats selling them on other markets as well as supporting 200 women in petty trade activities through microfinance loan start-ups. Again, there is an immediate plan to re-stock 186 of the most desperate households with breeding goats to be supported with concentrated animal feed.
APDA is well aware that the remaining Afar herd need careful support as right now, the season is extremely dry, the winter rains only having briefly assisted the western border. Pasture is now tinder dry and the animals weakening by the day with many areas reporting both human and animal thirst.
- Two hands clapping (one hand only creates a deafly silence):
APDA was set in motion through the marvelous support of its donor – partners, the Ethiopian Dispora as well as Ethiopians in Addis and numerous generous, caring friends. Unfortunately we have not reached the end of the track but the actual strategy to do so is now in action and proven. The life-saving partnership you have generated with us needs to continue as literally, we are sending out as we receive.
In order to improve the system, APDA has actually changed the contribution account as follows:
Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, Samara Branch
Account name: APDA Emergency Response
Account number: 1000451985853
Swift code: CBE TETAA.
However, any funds coming into the previous account are being transferred.
Pictures of displacement sent from Erebti 12 days ago
Let us continue to work that those so cruelly subjected to misery are in the end restored and that the reality of this calamity is recognized for what it is!!