Editor’s note: Information from Tigray is hard to come by due to the Government-imposed total blockade on communication. A few journalists based in Mekelle have managed to post their observations on their personal facebook pages. The picture they paint is grim. Below are two posts by two journalists – originally in Tigrigna – and their (rough) translations into English. The first one is from Medhin Gebreselassie, a reporter for Tigrai Media House (TMH). The second one is from Mulugeta Atsbeha, a correspondent for the Voice of America (VOA).
The people of Tigray are deserting their homelands and emigrating to wherever their feet leads them. Especially people who used to live in places where there was a shortage of rainfall have either succumbed to beggary or displacement. For example, an official from the administration of the Endabah-Tsahma Wereda (Province) has informed me that about half of the people who used to live in the rural areas of the Wereda have left their places and their homes have become ruins. This is a fact that other people in the city of Edaga-Arbi confirm.
People are leaving their homes without any destination in mind because they are desperate. They cannot go to towns to beg because people in towns are in an even worse dire straits due to the closure of banks and suspension of salaries.
Life in Tigray has become unbearable!
It has been nine months since Government employees were last paid salaries. I cannot comprehend how people, who in normal times would struggle to survive for two or three days without a salary, have now managed to live without a salary for nine months. Teachers are fainting and collapsing to the ground in front of their students. (Elementary school – grades one through six – has resumed in some places.) It is commonplace to see teachers and civil servants beg for food. A lot of people are unusually thin. More and more people have sallow and pitted facial expressions. People talking to themselves in a manner not considered normal is a common sight.
In the small towns in the outskirts of Mekelle, the situation is even more dire. There is no washing soap. Personal hygiene is a luxury. Starvation is becoming rampant. The little aid that trickles in is handed out to those most affected; but now everyone is equally desperate for help.
Transport service is almost non-existent in Mekelle. Movement within the city is very limited. And the few taxi services available are prohibitively expensive. As a result, family members who live in different parts of Tigray have not met for about a year now.
People do not have cash. Even if someone were to get cash, they cannot find even basic grocery to buy. Where there is, it is very expensive. When a scheme that enabled Tigrayans in the diaspora to send money to their relatives in Tigray was put in place, the people who had cash acted in an unscrupulous manner – buying one dollar for only 37 Ethiopian Birr. And the process was slow and complicated by bureaucratic hurdles.
As for the people dying due to lack of medication, it is beyond comprehension. Based on data the Department of Health of Tigray has obtained from various Weredas – 40% of Tigray has been covered in the study – for the last three months, 5421 people have died due to lack of medication.
If the siege that has been laid on Tigray continues, the people of Tigray will face a danger difficult to even comprehend.