A displaced woman and her child await food aid in Tigray region's Shire town in Ethiopia. A displaced woman and her child await food aid in Tigray region's Shire town in Ethiopia.  

UN deputy chief: Ethiopia better poised for peace in Tigray

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed on Wednesday concluded a 5-day visit to Ethiopia. Before flying out, she addressed journalists on the situation in the country.

By Robin Gomes

A top United Nations official has said that Ethiopia is in “a much better place” to resolve the conflict that erupted 15 months ago in Tigray. “There is much more conversation and dialogue and talk around the national dialogue itself and the way to peace”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed told journalists as she flew out of the capital Addis Ababa on Wednesday after a five-day trip to the east African nation.

Listening to people

During her visit, Mohammed met people living in the northern regions of Tigray, Amhara, Somali, and Afar, where she witnessed the tragedies of the conflict first-hand, but also learned of the efforts made by the government and people in Ethiopia to end the fighting.

Mohammad noted how important it was “to hear from the leaders there, to hear from the people, and to hear really what their hopes are, and how they will engage with this pathway to peace.”

Ethiopia has seen 22 million people driven into humanitarian suffering.

The conflict

The civil war in Ethiopia began in November 2020, when forces loyal to the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) seized military bases in Tigray. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed responded with a military counter-offensive that has spiralled beyond Tigray, as militias and separatist groups from neighbouring regions took up arms against Abiy’s government.

Across the three conflict-affected regions of Tigray, Amhara, and Afar, more than nine million people now need humanitarian food assistance, the highest number so far, since the conflict began.

According to the Tigray Emergency Food Security Assessment, 83 per cent of people are food insecure. Families are exhausting all means to feed themselves, with three-quarters of the population using extreme coping strategies to survive.

Stressing UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call for a cessation of hostilities and for a pathway to peace in Ethiopia, Mohammed noted how “the talks continue and there is certainly less hostility than there was a few months ago.”

Women and children

The UN estimates 13 per cent of Tigrayan children under five, and half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women, are malnourished, leading to poor pregnancy outcomes, low-birth weight, stunting, and increased maternal death.

Stressing that “there is never a winner in conflict,” Mohammed said that in her visits, she found that the women and children were “the biggest losers of this conflict.” “The tragedy that has happened to women and children is one that I hope that the men of Ethiopia will lead the recovery,” she said.

In a tweet on Wednesday, she wrote, “Women and girls are being hit hardest and must be on the frontline of recovery.” “The UN continues to be committed to supporting the people of Ethiopia, and to leaving no one behind.”

The UN deputy chief called for the immediate end to sexual and gender-based violence, among other atrocities, and cited the need for comprehensive physical and mental health support. She also urged the authorities to involve women meaningfully in all recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Solidarity with Ethiopian people

Wrapping up her visit, Mohammed told journalists that the last five days had been “a journey of solidarity with the Ethiopian people.” “You will find a way [to peace] and we will accompany the Ethiopian people to that peace.” “When we find peace, we can begin the journey back to economic recovery, and the restoration of dignity and livelihoods,” the Deputy Secretary-General said added.

Addressing Africa's issues

Last weekend, she represented the Secretary-General at the opening of the 35th session of the Assembly of the African Union (AU), where she spoke with African leaders on pressing issues, ranging from development and conflict to the many humanitarian crises besetting the continent.

Following the meeting, she said that “opportunities to address Africa’s challenges are huge,” and stressed the importance of aligning the 2030 Agenda and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.  (Source: UN News)

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10 February 2022, 15:58