Eritrea: hardship, shortages and Covid-19

The current Covid-19 crisis comes against a background of intense hardship. This is today found in the towns and the rural areas, from the western regions bordering on Sudan to the eastern areas of the Danakil.

This is a snapshot of the suffering the people of Eritrea are enduring. The source of this information is well informed.


The first cases of COVID in Eritrea reported in mid-March mostly connected with people travelling to Eritrea via the airport. In April the Eritrean Government imposed a lockdown in the country.
From March to mid-May the Government:
  • reported a total of 39 COVID positive cases
  • never clearly reported on the number of people being tested
  • has not reported any deaths
  • by 16 May 2020, the Eritrean Government reported that all 39 COVID -19 positive cases had recovered
  • from 16 May 2020  to the start of June 2020 the Eritrean Government did not report any new cases – but the complete lockdown of the country was not lifted.
  • 03 June 2020 the country started to report newly cased of COVID-19. These new case were explained as follows: Random  testing in urban areas –  Asmara. The movement of people from Yemen, Ethiopia, Sudan was also blamed. However, there is no explanation as to who is moving. No information as to whether the movement is due to migration, repatriation or seasonal livestock movement.
  • The release of the new figures coincides with the Eritrean Afar raising the alarm over continued tight COVID 19 lockdown in  Dankalia
  • So far the Eritrean government has released no data at all about the number of deaths from COVID 19. I  think they would like us to think there are no deaths. As much as I would like to believe that there are no COVID 19 deaths in Eritrea such outcome is not possible; it is not plausible. Hence, the data from the Eritrean Government is not complete and it is not reliable. 

Hardship, scarcity and rising prices

This is the jist of an article published by the BBC Tigrinya Service

Eritrea has remained in complete lock down since mid April 2020. All land borders between Eritrea and its neighbours are closed.

The prices of goods have doubled all over the country. Banking restrictions allowing people to only withdraw 5,000 Nakfa remain in place.

There is a shortage of basic items such as sorghum, sugar, oil. This shortage is not only in the marked it is also in the Government shops . To access the Government shops people must register in the area of their residence  and obtain a ration card.  We know  that certain  groups  cannot  register or obtain a ration  card. These  include those who are expected to report for Sawa, members of Jehovah Witness and  in many case families of people who have escaped from the country. To this there are also a number of permutations.

There is  shortage of fuel. One of the implications of this is that water is not pumped and distributed regularly. Hence there is  a shortage of water as the supply is unreliable and with the lockdown it is more difficult for people to arrange for themselves.

In summary there is hunger all over Eritrea from the coast the Eritrean Afars have already raised the alarm as to the dire  situation they are facing with the lock down, Government confiscation of their goods as well as the confiscation and killing of their camel.

Since the Afar news broke – my own contacts in Asmara have been telling me that the hunger is not only in Dankalia ( Souther Red Sea Zoba – Afar area) it is  all over Eritrea and in particular in Anseba ( Western Eritrea) . The BBC article now confirms that there is hunger all over the country and specifially mentions Gash Barka, Anseba.

PLEASE NOTE THAT Gash Barka and  Anseba are part of the Western Lowlands and border Sudan and traditionally relied on trade and exchange  with Sudan. As Sudan is also coping with COVID  hence movement along this border is restricted from both sides. Also the tension between Sudan and Ethiopia over their own border dispute as well as the Great Dam – is not helping

PLEASE NOTE THAT in the Eastern Lowlands the Saudi/Emirate alliance had offered to assist the people  but the Eritrean Government and specifically General Manjus  posted to Assab since February 2020 have refused this assistance.  According to my information (from Asmara) the FAO  has provided assistance to the Afar (USD 1 million was quoted) as they cannot travel  to the area the funds were provided to the Government who has distributed something according to its own media release. However, the Afar report that they have not received and that the Eritrean military in  the area took most of it.  The problem is that there is no way to independently verify either version. However, General Manjus has a reputation for corruption, human trafficking and trafficking in  general.

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